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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Former ambassador to U.S. joins Nefesh B'Nefesh

Former ambassador to U.S. joins Nefesh B'Nefesh
By Daphna Berman

Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon, has been appointed co-chair of Nefesh B'Nefesh, the Jerusalem-based aliya organization announced yesterday.
In an interview with Haaretz following the appointment, Ayalon said, "It is not unrealistic to think of a million Jews" immigrating to Israel by 2020 - a goal he calls "important politically and strategically."
"Look at Europe and there are many uncertainties there," he said. "It is a great reservoir (for aliyah)."
NBN is now active in North America and the UK, but Ayalon believes that the possibility of expanding the organization "should be discussed and analyzed." "Every country and every [Jewish] community around the globe could benefit" from the organization, he said. He would not specify a country, however.
Though the position is unpaid, Ayalon insisted that he would have an active "full time" job in which he would be far more that just a figurehead.
"I have been asked to advise and consult for business, but my main focus is on Nefesh," he said. "Part of the way I saw myself in Washington was not staying in the bubble in Washington, but rather reaching out and visiting communities. I intend to do that now."
Ayalon said that a key focus would be "raising awareness" among the Israeli public to "open up their hearts and minds to olim [immigrants]" so that the new arrivals feel welcome here. Ayalon, whose U.S. posting came to an end in November, has been succeeded in Washington by Ambassador Sallai Meridor, who is former chair of the Jewish Agency.
He will be honored Sunday at a celebration in Washington, where President George W. Bush is set to be keynote speaker.
Though overall immigration rates for 2006 constituted an 18-year low, numbers from North America and the UK were the highest in more than two decades, with 3,200 and 720 arrivals respectively. Last month, the organization also celebrated the processing of its 10,000th immigrant.

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