Empowering Israeli immigrants

KeepOlim Chanukah Party in Jerusalem, 2016.

“PEOPLE make aliyah all the time, but when we count the number of olim that have stayed in Israel long term and have built a life there and sustained it, the numbers aren’t so good.”

That’s where KeepOlim comes in, aiming to empower, inspire, and support immigrants to Israel from all over the world through post-aliyah programs and services. Co-founder Tzvika Graiver, who is currently in Australia meeting community groups, told The AJN that the organisation aims to foster a strong sense of community and advocate for olim to successfully integrate into Israeli society during life after aliyah.

Although it has only been active for 18 months, the organisation has already helped more than 30,000 olim from around the world, including former Australians.

“Every oleh has the same four problems: language skills, employment, mental health and their social life,” explained Graiver. “That’s where our programs help. Everyone wants to bring people to Israel – we focus on the olim that are already there and need our help.”

KeepOlim’s programs include free legal aid, hospital visits, matching up olim and throwing parties to ensure than nobody spends the holidays alone, Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah and Pesach programs, self-help and self-empowerment courses and mental health services.

One-third of all suicides in Israel are olim, Graiver said, and KeepOlim’s next project is to give olim access to heavily subsidised counselling with a therapist that speaks their mother tongue.

“Many people that have made aliyah feel uncomfortable to go to the organisation that brought them to Israel and admit that they are unhappy,” Graiver said. “But people find it easy to come to us and ask for help because there are so many people in the KeepOlim family with the same problems.”

As the go-to lawyer in KeepOlim, Graiver has personally helped hundreds of new olim with rental and work contracts. His next goal is to make the transfer of licenses easier between people’s home countries and Israel.

“People often aren’t employed in their field of choice because licenses to practise medicine or law for instance are too hard to convert,” said Graiver, who has been advocating in the Knesset to make it easier for people to keep their profession.

“It’s not about bringing people to Israel, it’s about helping them stay there happily,” Graiver said. “It doesn’t matter where you’re from or how much money you have, if you’re alone in Israel then you’re going to feel sad and isolated and that’s what we’re focused on changing.”

For more information, visit www.keepolim.org.

YAEL BRENDER