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'Tools to Face Reality'

November 15, 1990|DAVID MARGOLIS

To help emigrants from Los Angeles take root in Israel, the Los Angeles Jewish Federation operates the Aliyah Demonstration Project, which provides prospective immigrants with what project director Arnold Bender calls "tools to face reality."

Though American Jews may initially feel at home in the Jewish state, Bender emphasizes that Israel's culture is very different from America's.

"No one knows 'I Love Lucy' or the Dodgers," he said. "You don't know what the blue line painted on the curb means when you want to park. You don't know the network in your professional field, or how to go about signing up for a driver's license and a bank account. All the systems are different--and in another language to boot."

Bender strongly recommends that prospective immigrants make exploratory trips to Israel to investigate job and housing markets, and that they work on Hebrew language skills before going. In addition, he says, they should give serious thought to how their children are likely to fare in a new land. Couples should make sure they are in accord on the move and the reasons for making it, he adds.

"People don't want to face the complexities," Bender lamented.

On the other end of the Aliyah pipeline, the federation's Jerusalem office provides various services to new immigrants--social programs and reunions to help them build a network, counseling services in collaboration with the Assn. of Americans and Canadians in Israel and no-interest and low-interest loans to assist with emergencies and mortgages.

Immigration from Los Angeles--and from all of North America--has dropped significantly in recent years, according to Bender and other Aliyah professionals. They attribute the decline to a number of factors, including Israel's troubled economy, continuing regional conflict and the Arab uprising on the West Bank, as well as a tendency among American Jews today to regard Israel in less idealistic terms than they did, say, 20 years ago.

Last year, Bender said, 110 Jews, including children, emigrated from Los Angeles to Israel. That was down from 177 in 1985.

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