Our Foundation’s patronage extends around the globe, but we do have a strategy that focuses extra attention on Tel Aviv.
Why Tel Aviv?
Tel Aviv as an idea and as a place of action is amongst the most exciting things happening in the Jewish world today. We believe that Tel Aviv is a big part of the answer to the waning soul of Diaspora Jewry. This great city can be the savior of the Jewish People. Our family has prayed to return to Israel three times a day consistently for 2000 years, and miraculously the gates have opened for us. Returning to Israel is more than a Biblical prophecy and promise fulfilled; it has become a practical necessity for our substantive continuity. With painful levels of intermarriage and assimilation in almost all Jewish communities worldwide, connecting to the Land of Israel and Jewish identity through Observant Zionism has never been more important. This is our native habitat. This is where we can best actualize our potential as individuals and as a Nation.
The White City is the most desirable place in the Land for most young Jews living around the globe to move to. From New York, London, Paris, Buenos Aires, Sydney, Cape Town, Toronto, Los Angeles, Rome etc…Tel Aviv is currently where most young Jews head to when making the noble decision to come Home. Beyond its physical appeal as a modern multicultural international city, Tel Aviv offers both the career and urban cultural infrastructure that is ideal for young Jews to integrate into, and to sustain their lives over the long term.
Tel Aviv-Yafo has always been a major port of Eretz Yisrael, and specifically the main physical and spiritual “namal” for Yerushalayim. Since ancient days, when Shlomo HaMelech brought in the foundations of the Beit Hamikdash through our holy port city, Tel Aviv-Yafo has been both a literal and figural lighthouse and gateway for the Jewish People to connect to the Land of Israel. Rashi posited that the entire reason for Galut was to ensure that the Jewish People brought the sparks of holiness that were spread around the globe to the Land of Israel, for its and our benefit. As it was in antiquity, Tel Aviv is again the first touch-point for the best of the international arena to enter our Land. Tel Aviv is where Rav Kook initially settled in the Land and became its first Chief Rabbi. The former Belzer Rebbe famously called the city, “Tel Aviv Ir HaKodesh”. Our goal is to recognize the unique place that Tel Aviv-Yafo has in Jewish History, to learn how to tap into that power so we can know how to better our People today, using the gifts that this city has to offer, as a lighthouse, and as a gateway.
This is the historic symbol of the city of Tel Aviv-Yafo, designed in 1925 by the artist Nahum Gutman, then a 27-year-old young Oleh painter. In Gutman’s own words, “In the center of Tel Aviv’s official seal is a Star of David surrounded by seven stars, and stands a lighthouse projecting rays of light. An excerpt from the Book of Jeremiah (31:4) reads: ‘I will build thee up and thou shalt be built’. The lighthouse and gate symbolize Tel Aviv as ‘a light unto the nation’ and gateway for immigration – a safe harbor for Jewish refugees. The seven stars originated in a draft made by Herzl for a flag of the future Jewish country.”
These words about Tel Aviv’s city’s emblem are equally as relevant almost 100 years after its creation. Tel Aviv has always been a gateway for the Jewish People to return home, and as a place for which the Jewish People whom have returned, to shine a light to their brethren outside of the Land, urging them to take upon themselves these same ideals.
The Am Yisrael Foundation has as one of its core missions to support initiatives that inspire every young Jew around the globe to come Home, and ensure they stay in Israel happy and constantly contributing to its society. Israel as a country has just started and the task of nation building is not yet over. Ben-Gurion and Begin do not have the monopoly on building up Israel; thankfully one can still be a real pioneer.
Our hope is that the new young pioneers are honoring and building upon the incredible work done by the original pioneers that built this great city on the desolate sands adjacent to the ancient Biblical port of Yafo. We believe that the new vibrant young international community of Tel Aviv are the spiritual inheritors of the original sixty-six founding families, all of whom were Olim themselves, as captured in the famous 1909 photo above. We see these new young Olim as modern pioneers in the truest sense.
Tel Aviv today has over 20,000 young western Olim. This astonishing number reflects a niche community that has tripled in the past six years alone, and represents the tip of the iceberg in terms of massive waves of Olim coming in the next few years.
In our goal to entice young Jews from around the globe to come live in Tel Aviv, we have chosen to sponsor many non-profit community platforms within the city. We know that these new young Olim want to give to Israeli society far more than they are looking to take. Once we help establish these young Olim, giving them a significant foothold and comfort level in this city, they will quickly repay the favor in quantities far outweighing our original investment in them.
Investing in young Olim and related organizations does far more than simply benefiting a few thousand people. The paradigm shift of Tel Aviv as the preeminent destination for young Jews has ripple effects for the entire Jewish world. Not only can this significant new movement move the dial towards inspiring a whole new generation that is afflicted with gross apathy and disconnection from Jewish identity, but each young Oleh brings substantive economic benefit to Tel Aviv and Israel as a whole. Giving to young Olim is just good business.
A study conducted by the accounting and consulting firm Deloitte Brightman Almagor Zohar shows the overwhelming contribution western immigrants to Israel have made to the country’s economy. This analysis was conducted based on accumulated data of about 18,000 US/Canadian immigrants who made Aliyah between the years 2002-2008. According to the study, households of these immigrants “pay back” the Israeli government’s investment in them within the first year of their arrival, and are already a significant source of income for the country within five years. The 6,493 households which made Aliyah through between 2002 and 2008 have yielded a whopping 989 million shekels, with the cost of absorbing them standing at only NIS 528 million, leaving the immigrants’ contribution at NIS 461 million in that short period.
Visiting friends and family of the Olim in this study also gave a boost to the economy by supporting the national tourism industry to the tune of NIS 347 million. Adding this to the tally, Olim were accountable for a total GNP contribution of NIS 808 million (over $212 million) within those six years. Considering the passage of a few years since this study was conducted, and the continued employment and success of these western Olim, that number could be higher than NIS 3 billion today.
The success of these western Olim can be tied to three key factors: 1. The high level of higher education found among western immigrants. Their level (75% have a bachelor’s degree or higher) is significantly higher than the average in Israel. 2. Western immigrants tend to arrive with considerable valuable assets. 3. Many tourists are attracted to Israel by these western Olim, whose families and friends have pumped hundreds of millions of shekels in tourist dollars into the economy.
Other interesting findings include the high employment eligibility of these western Olim (81% of adult western immigrants are at the age of employment), and their overwhelming success in finding a job (almost 90% are employed within one year of arrival).
In conclusion, the Am Yisrael Foundation believes in Tel Aviv, we love Tel Aviv, and we hope the entire Jewish People see the unique value this city will have for our shared bright future.