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August 2, 2013

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PAGE 2A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, AUGUST 2, 2013 Foreign Ministry labor dispute complicating plans for new immigrants to Israel courtesy Nefesh B'Nefesh New immigrants to Israel step out of the plane at Ben Gurion Airport. tion to Israel with the non- profit Nefesh B'Nefesh, has found a temporary solution: They will arrive with tourist visas and be processed in Israel. But until they are, standard immigrant ben- efits--among them, access to national health care and a monthly stipend--are on hold. JAFI has agreed to cover the first month of private health insurance but is ask- ing immigrants to come with their own insurance until their status is finalized. "Right now we're facing obstacles that usually we don't have, and we're trying By Josh Lipowsky NEW YORK (JTA)--Even- tually, all Jews will end up in Israel, Cliff Katz says. But for now, a labor dispute in the Jewish state is holding things up. Katz, 47, decided to im- migrate from Texas about a year ago. He filled out all the paperwork, paid the fees and already had two job interviews lined up for later this summer. But the dispute between the Israeli Foreign Minis- try's union and the Finance Ministry has led the Foreign Ministry to halt all con- sular services, including processing new immigrants, consigning some would-be immigrants, or olim, to a state of limbo. "Since the [Jewish] Agency heard that the Foreign Min- istry shut the doors tempo- rarily, I cannot enter Israel," Katz said. "I'm ready to go." About 1,300 North Ameri- cans are scheduled to make aliyah to Israel this summer. The bulk of them have been processed and will arrive as citizens. For the 300 or so who have not yet been processed, the Jewish Agency for Israel, which coordinates immigra- Your in Orlando Real Estate!I!! Over 25+ years Residential Real Estate Sales experience Over $200 Million+ Lifetime Sales GALE MILGRIM, P.A., Realtor 407-443-9832 Visit To read my Glooing Client Testimonials and my BIO!!!!! Member Congregation Ohev Shalom Parent of 2 Jewish Academy Alumni Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando Supporter REAl_ ES'FATE SERVICES :: to do everything we can to take those obstacles out," said Rafael Cohen, the director of aliyh in JAFI's New York of- rice. "It's true we're not able to give [the oleh] the same service as usual, but we are there for him." For Katz, who is unem- ployed and on disability, not being able to join Israel's na- tionalized health care system has forced him to put off the move. Other olim are in the same position. "It's just really frustrating when you're ready to go and all of a sudden this hits you," he said. The dispute is the latest salvo in the six-month dis- pute between the union and Finance Ministry. The union is seeking increased wages and benefits for its diplomats along with a new collective bargaining agreement to address a wages and benefits structure that sources say has not changed since 1994. Olim aren't the only ones affected by the labor strife. Diplomats continue towork in Israel and in its diplomatic missions around the world, but consular services have been reduced to immediate health emergencies, adop- tions and burials. Prime Min- ister Benjamin Netanyahu's ability to travel abroad has been complicated. And some 40 to 50 people are turned away from the Los Angeles consulate daily for passport or other services, said Uri Resnick, the deputy consul. "We're not interested in hurting anyone," Resnick said. "The citizens looking for services are unfortunately affected by these labor sanc- tions. The fact thatwe have to take these kinds of sanctions reflects on the gravity of the situation." Israeli consulates don't just provide passport services. They also offer public educa- tion services about advocacy on behalf of the Jewish state. Despite the benefit to the country of aliyah, the situation is not considered an emergency. Chaim Shacham, Israel's consul general to Florida and Puerto Rico, said a recent strike by Israeli doc- tors and nurses had a greater impact on the country's ability to function. But the effect of the Foreign Ministry dispute is magnified because of its impact on na- tional security. Still, Shacham says there is no other way to address the need for a more proportionate allocation of resources for the ministry. "Most countries, especially enlightened democracies, understand labor disputes and the inherent right of workers to organize," he said. "I've heard nothing but encouragement from fellow foreign service officers from different countries, as well as my counterparts in the host country." As of the beginning of last week, teams from the Foreign Ministry union and the Finance Ministry were meeting, but no proposals had been made, according to a source at the Israeli embassy in Washington. "The dynamic of limited labor action is continuing because that's the only way to pressure the Ministry of Finance in Israel to negotiate," said the source, who requested anonymity. He said diplomats see themselves as part of Israel's national security, but must address their own rights as employees and take care of their families. "People understand that it's not an issue of foreign relations; it's an issue of working relations in Israel," the source said. Nobody has canceled their aliyah plans because of the dis- pute, but a handful of people have postponed their move, according to Cohen. With no clear end date in sight for the dispute, JAFI is discouraging olim from deferring their trips, the source said. "I'm concerned about it because you never know what will happen," he said. "We're telling them we'll be there for them." For some, such assurances just aren't enough. Unable to find work in Texas, Katz is planning to move to New York to seek temporary employment. He hopes to be on the first Nefesh B'Nefesh flight to Israel after the dispute is settled. Until then, he sympathizes with the Foreign Ministry em- ployees, but he believes both sides need to put politics aside for the sake of aliyah. "Open the doors and allow us to come in," Katz said. "We're Jews, we're meant to get to Israel. Eventually we're all going to get there, but some of uswould like to leave now." Women of the Wall request use of sacred site's Torah scroll JERUSALEM (JTA) Wom- en of the Wall asked the rabbi of the Western Wall to allow the group to use one of the site's Torah scrolls. In a letter sent Sunday, Women of the Wall made the request to Rabbi Shmuel Rabi- nowitz for their Rosh Chodesh prayer service, marking the start of the new Jewish month. The group asked to use one of the site's 100 scrolls available for public use or to bring in its own. According to regulations established several years ago by Rabinowitz, worshippers are not allowed to bring a Torah scroll from outside the site. The Torah scrolls avail- able to the public are kept in the men's section and are not available to female worship- pers at the wall. Attempts to provide the women's section with a To- rah scroll have been quashed in the past, according to Ynet. "We cannot accept the continuation of a policy which prevents women from access- ing the Torah at the Western Wall," read the letter, which was signed by Anat Hoffman, chair of Women of the Wall. "Through his own ordinance and regulations, Rabbi Shm- uel Rabinowitz prohibits women and only women from reading from the Torah scroll, as men have free access to the hundreds of scrolls at the Western Wall. This regulation does not meet the standards of good governance over a public space nor do the discrimina- tory practices of the rabbi, as a publicly appointed authority. Hoffman said it was "ab- surd" that Rabinowitz has refused Women of the Wall's offer to donate a Torah scroll to the Western Wall for use by female worshippers there. The letter was copied to Israeli President Shimon Peres, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky, who have been working on a plan to bring egalitarian prayer to the site. Women of the Wall gathers at the beginning of each Jew- ish month for a women's Rosh Chodesh service at the wail. Members have been arrested for wearing prayer shawls because of a law forbidding any practice that falls outside of the wall's "local custom." InApril, a judge determined that the group's activities did not contravene the law. Since then, none of the women have been arrested. Dermer approved officially as Israel's U.S. envoy JERUSALEM (JTA)--Is- rael's Cabinet unanimously approved the appointment of Ron Dermer as Israeli ambas- sador to the United States. The appointment of Derm- er, a former senior adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was approved Sunday during the regular weekly Cabinet meeting. Dermer, who immigrated to Israel from Florida 15 years ago, succeeds Michael Oren, a New Jersey native. Oren announced on July 5 that he would be vacating his post in the fall. "Ron is one of the most talented and dedicated people I know," Netanyahu said after the vote. "No one is more ap- propriate. Hewill continue the exceptional work of outgoing Ambassador Michael Oren; I am cerlain that Ron will continue this work."