Absorption Ministry to slash rental assistance for new immigrants

Aid shrinks by nearly half to NIS 8,712 over two years, with additional monthly stipends for those moving to ‘national priority’ areas; Elkin: Ministry ‘pickpocketing’ new arrivals

Illustrative: New immigrants from Ethiopia arrive at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, June 1, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
Illustrative: New immigrants from Ethiopia arrive at Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv, June 1, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)

The Immigration and Absorption Ministry has decreased rental assistance for new immigrants by almost half as part of an across-the-board budget cut, Hebrew media reported Tuesday.

According to a statement from the Knesset Committee on Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, immigrants who came to Israel beginning in March will receive NIS 363 ($97) monthly for two years, for a total of 8,712 ($2,340), down from NIS 16,500 ($4,430) over the course of five years.

New arrivals who move to “national priority” areas in the country’s periphery will receive an additional NIS 973 ($260) monthly for single immigrants, NIS 1,341 ($360) for two-parent households and NIS 1,500 ($400) for single-parent households.

Those areas cited in the ministry’s decision refer to regions defined in a government decision as being either far from the country’s center or near zones of conflict. Among others, they include West Bank settlements and Gaza border communities.

The aid decrease is part of a reform in the ministry brought about by across-the-board budgetary cuts the government decided on in early 2024 to offset increased defense expenditure amid the war against Hamas in Gaza and fighting against Hezbollah on the northern border.

The Immigration Ministry’s budget for rental assistance was cut by NIS 80 million ($25.5 million), according to the Knesset committee’s statement.

File – Oded Forer, chair of Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs, attends a committee meeting at the Knesset in Jerusalem on January 19, 2023. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Committee chairman MK Oded Forer of the opposition hawkish Yisrael Beytenu — long a party of preference for immigrants from the former Soviet Union — criticized the aid cut and lack of transparency surrounding it.

“This is a very harsh message [to send] the new immigrants,” Forer said at the committee’s meeting on Monday. “We asked the ministry to show us the emerging reform in committee even before it was made public, but it didn’t happen.”

MK Ze’ev Elkin of New Hope, himself an immigrant from Ukraine, said at the meeting that he was “devastated” that the ministry was effectively making new immigrants move to the country’s periphery.

“The Immigration and Absorption Ministry is pickpocketing the new immigrants,” said Elkin. “Instead of increasing their aid, [the ministry] is cutting it by 50%, and has the gall to call it a ‘positive reform’ for immigrants.”

Then-Minister of Housing and Construction Zeev Elkin speaks at a conference of the Israeli Construction Center in Tel Aviv on October 20, 2022. (Tomer Neuberg/ Flash90/ File)

The so-called periphery encompasses Israel’s north and south, which are largely disconnected from the economic centers of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem due to poor transportation infrastructure. Successive governments have earmarked extra funds for the marginalized areas.

Israel has been preparing for what it says will be a surge in Jewish immigration, or aliyah, as antisemitism has been on the rise around the world since October 7, when thousands of Hamas-led terrorists stormed southern Israel to kill nearly 1,200 people and take 251 hostages, sparking the war in Gaza.

Between January and May 2024, over 11,000 new immigrants, or olim, have come to Israel under the Law of Return, which allows Jews and their families to become citizens. Some 70 percent of them were from Russia.

The Jewish Agency for Israel, which handles immigration for the government, has said it expects about 15,500 immigrants from the United Kingdom, the United States and Western Europe in 2024 — nearly 2.5 times the 6,220 immigrants who came from Western countries in 2023.

Canaan Lidor contributed to this report.

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