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Jewish Agency launches plan to attract Western hi-tech engineers

June 24, 2008. Haaretz: Cnaan Liphshitz
Leading high-tech figures are on Tuesday scheduled to hear the details of a new Jewish Agency plan to attract 1,000 engineers and hi-tech professionals from the West by 2010, in an effort to relieve Israel's shortage in hi-tech engineers, Haaretz has learned.

According to Jewish Agency spokesperson Michael Jankelowitz, the new plan - which will be unveiled at the Ra'anana Conference for National Hi-Tech Policy - is the fruit of a cooperative effort between the Agency and industrialists in the field.

The plan aims to find the prospective immigrants work in Israel's hi-tech industry before they leave their country of origin, making the various hiring hi-tech companies "important partners in the absorption process," Jankelowitz added.

In May, the Jewish Agency also launched a new program to offer Jews from Western countries tax breaks and other accommodations, as incentives to immigrate to Israel.

The program, proposed by the agency and the Absorption and Interior ministries, will offer new Jewish immigrants temporary residency status, and would exempt them from most taxes and national service for several years. Immigrants who continue to run businesses abroad also will receive tax exemptions.

The proposal is part of the Jewish Agency's attempt to compete with private aliyah organizations such as Nefesh B'Nefesh, which assists North American and British Jews with housing and job hunting.

The Jewish Agency saw its funds drop drastically due to the dollar's plunge against the shekel, since donations by U.S. philanthropists constitute a considerable part of its budget.

In addition, major Jewish American donors have become less willing to contribute to the Jewish Agency's general fund, instead opting to donate to their pet projects through private funds. The organization's attempt to find new sources of income, through cooperation with Russian-Israeli financier Arcadi Gaydamak last year and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews this year, ran aground due to differences of opinion over control of the funds.
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