City of Ariel

Absorbing Olim from the East

In Ariel City, Letters, National on April 16, 1990 at 11:10 am

Dear Friends, 

These last few months have truly been a landmark period in Ariel’s development, a time of building, of laying new cornerstones, both literally and figuratively. As we enter 1990, we see the opening of a second commercial center for Ariel, a new high technology industrial park, the first stages of construction of two new sports centers and the Ariel Cultural Complex, groundbreaking for a new Torah Center, and the most welcome addition of all, the advent of hundreds of new immigrants from the Soviet Union. 

These are only some of the signs of the strength and optimism of Ariel. We have gone through a difficult two years of “intifada”, and yet Ariel has grown by leaps and bounds. With the change in area commanders, there had been a major decrease in violent activity in this area. Though the brutal murder of Arabs by Arabs continues, incidents involving Jewish settlers or Israeli soldiers have been drastically reduced. Ties between the resident of Ariel and the IDF forces serving in the area have strengthened. In fact, the city and its residents have recently “adopted” the division serving in this area and organized a great number of activities to express their appreciation to the soldiers and to make their service more pleasant.

Moreover, we recognized that Ariel could answer the specific needs of so many families, that we had the facilities and services and most importantly, the human resources, to make newcomers feel welcome in our community. And so we came forward. We did not wait for others to do for us. We initiated. 

Several years ago, we set up an independent Municipal Aliyah & Absorption office so that we could welcome South Africans and South Americans. In essence, we made Aliyah Ariel’s number-one priority. Now, when everyone is merely talking excitedly about the wave of Russian Aliyah, we are ready. We have just opened our sixth ulpan class for the study of the Hebrew language. We set up a network of volunteers to act as adoptive families and to help these newcomers thought the early and sometimes difficult stages of integration. We opened our hearts and our homes to our brothers from the Soviet Union. 

This has been no easy accomplishment. We have no official absorption center in Ariel, nor do we receive any assistance from either the Jewish Agency or the Jewish Federations. We are, in fact, the victims of a political boycott. This will not stop us. We have prepared the groundwork for the most successful, efficient and warmest kind of absorption of these new immigrants, and we are confident that not only will they benefit from all that we have to offer, but that our community will be enriched by their presence. 

There are some hard, cold facts that simply cannot be ignored. We are facing one of the most serious sequences of events in the history of the Jewish people – a danger to the very existence of the Jews of Eastern Europe. The stories of anti-Semitism that we have been hearing from recent arrivals from the Soviet Union are truly frightening. Glasnost and Perestroika have, among other things, brought to the Russians the freedom to express their hatred of Jews. It is time for every for every one of us, both here and abroad, to put aside his political biases. We must not allow internal conflict to distract us from this most vital of all missions. First and foremost, we must ensure the speedy release of every Soviet Jew who wishes to come home. And then, we must facilitate their resettlement in those places that are best equipped to absorb them. 

This task does not rest with Ariel alone. It is a responsibility shared with Jews everywhere. Now is the time for industrialists from every country around the world to open branches of their businesses in those cities that are absorbing Russian Jewry, so that more places of employment are created. Now is the time to stretch our budgets to their very limits to ensure the successful integration of the Soviet immigrants. Ariel has undertaken the construction of 1,000 additional homes for our brethren from the Soviet Union, and we are counting on your assistance and support. 

This final decade of the 20th century brings to Ariel – in fact, to all of us – new tasks and new objectives. If we meet these challenges with courage and efficiency, if we explore new ways to make this new wave of immigration a path way to the fulfillment of the Zionist dream, then we will not only have succeeded in persuading the leaders of Eastern Europe to “Let My People Go”, but we will have truly brought them home. 

Sincerely,

Ron Nachman

Mayor

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