Mind your language, Eli

There are signs that the Israeli government might not be treating the process of welcoming and integrating immigrants with a great deal of importance.

Why? Well, the newly appointed absorption minister, Eli Affalo, does not speak a word of English. That may prove significant when one’s job entails a large number of conversations with English-speakers.

A source close to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert defended the decision, saying: “Speaking English is not part of the criteria.”

But an official from the Jewish Agency for Israel, quoted in the Jerusalem Post, was not impressed. He said the last few absorption ministers all “seemed to hate the job”.

Affalo is not the only appointment to be criticised on such grounds. The new tourism minister Ruhama Avraham has only a shaky grasp of the English language. Clearly Olmert believes that this appointment will give her plenty of opportunity to practise.

    Last updated: 10:13am, July 10 2008