British Jews making aliyah this summer are facing delays and confusion because of industrial action by Israeli Foreign Ministry staff and “a total lack of communication” from the Jewish Agency in this country.
Employees at Israeli embassies around the world are into the third month of a dispute about pay and have suspended consular services, including the issuing of visas.
As a result, immigrants waiting for the paper-work have had their aliyah plans disrupted.
Londoner Zack Jeffay, who is due to begin a new life in Israel with his wife and daughter next month, has been told he can go ahead book a flight but will have to organise visas from Israel, which could take several days. “I’m just not sure when I’ll get there to start work,” he said. “It’s difficult.”
He complained that he had found about the strike only via Facebook and had received no information from the Jewish Agency UK, which oversees British immigration to Israel.
In another complication, a flight for olim scheduled for July 31 has been moved because four flights from France are due to land in Israel on the same day.
“The Jewish Agency said it would be a nightmare to process everybody at the airport,” said Simon Levy, from Manchester, who was booked on the flight with his wife and daughter. “My question was quite how they hadn’t known so many flights were landing until a month beforehand. They said it was because, with the strike, it was harder to get things processed.”
To make matters worse, he was not informed of the cancellation. “We phoned to check on our visas because we hadn’t heard anything,” said Mr Levy. “They said the earliest they could get us there was August 13. I went mad and eventually they found us a flight at the start of August.”
He added: “It’s farcical that the people who are in charge of facilitating your aliyah don’t communicate with you and don’t respond”
Jewish Agency director Rael Goodman said: “We are aware of the deep concerns expressed by potential immigrants and we’re doing whatever possible to minimise the inconvenience.
“We are finding ways around this problem and, with very few exceptions, most people making aliyah can travel on their pre-planned date.”
Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky has urged the Israeli government to find a solution to the strike. “The visas must be issued as soon as possible,” he said.