New immigrants from the United States, Canada and Great Britain will receive the same financial aid package as those from other countries under a proposal that won the support this week of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The cabinet must approve the plan before it takes effect Dec. 1.
“It means that there are no more rich Jewish communities and communities in distress,” said Yuli Edelstein, deputy absorption minister and a proponent of the change.
Western immigrants currently receive $2,500 over the first six months, as well as other benefits such as tax and mortgage reductions.
Those from 40 so-called countries in distress receive between $1,000 and $2,000 upon arrival and another $8,000 throughout the year, in addition to mortgage and tax reductions, school scholarships and tuition for Hebrew class.
“I’ve been pushing for this for a long time,” said Edelstein. “A family of immigrants from Moscow is not very different from one from Michigan.”
He said he also hoped that the change would increase emigration from Western countries.
Edelstein noted that it appeared to have worked in France, which was added to the list of distressed countries this year.
“Last year there were 800 immigrants from France, this year already there are 2,000,” he said.