New Passport Rules and Lack of Jobs to Blame for Soviet Aliyah Slowdown
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New Passport Rules and Lack of Jobs to Blame for Soviet Aliyah Slowdown

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The flood of Soviet immigrants arriving in Israel has dwindled to a mere stream since new Soviet regulations requiring all people going abroad to have Soviet passports took effect July 1.

No more than 1,000 landed at Ben-Gurion Airport during the past week, compared to 2,000 or more arrivals almost every day in May and June.

Last weekend was the first time in years that not a single immigrant landed.

Israeli officials say they were justified in voicing concern before the regulations took effect that the sudden massive demand for passports would overwhelm the Soviet bureaucracy, delaying the departure of Jews for Israel.

But they admit that the bottleneck is not the only reason for the suddenly diminished number of olim. Lack of jobs and affordable housing in Israel has caused many potential emigres to delay their departure.

Not a few of them have been advised to do so in letters from relatives and friends who came here in the huge wave of Soviet aliyah last year.

Soviet Jews who come here as tourists for a week or so to survey the scene are for the most part deciding not to immigrate for the time being.

Uri Gordon, chairman of the Jewish Agency’s Immigration and Absorption Department, said Sunday that agency officials now predict that no more than 5,000 passport-holding Soviet Jews will make it to Israel in July.

Gordon spoke in a telephone interview from Warsaw during a tour he is taking of transit centers in Eastern Europe, where Soviet Jews stop off en route to Israel.


Meanwhile, an undisclosed number of Soviet Jews who immigrated to Israel in the past two years have returned to the Soviet Union in recent months because of absorption problems, lack of jobs in their professions and lack of housing.

Some who came here without Soviet passports are trying to obtain temporary laissez passer documents to return to their former homes.

There is also reason for concern that Soviet Jews, especially professionals, will be attracted to other countries seeking highly skilled people.

A typical case is that of a woman who came here from Soviet Georgia a year ago and works as a cleaning woman to make ends meet.

She says her husband did well as a dentist in their hometown, where, she claims, they owned a large house and two cars. But in Israel, her husband cannot find work because of the low regard for Soviet dental training.

The woman works mornings at a pharmacy and afternoons as domestic help in order to earn the $300 a month here family pays for a two-room apartment on Herzl Street, in a rundown section of Tel Aviv.

She says she and her 21-year-old daughter regret coming to Israel. “Maybe we should go back, even though we have nothing left there because we had to sell everything before we left,” the woman said. They would return “if we could pay back the debts we have already amassed here,” she said.

The woman said she has a house guest, a relative from one of the Baltic republics, who came on a Soviet passport and Israeli tourist visa.

She likes Israel, the woman said, but is uncertain about immigration because of the difficulty of finding a job in her profession as a construction engineer.

Science and Energy Minister Yuval Ne’eman and other officials say they are worried about a reported decision by the government of Brazil to allocate $100 million to absorb immigrant scientists and professionals in that country.

They warn that if Israel does not take adequate steps, it not only will fail to attract trained professionals from the Soviet Union but will lose those who have already come here.

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