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The Jewish Agency for Israel (Hebrew: הסוכנות היהודית לארץ ישראל‎, HaSochnut HaYehudit L'Eretz Yisra'el) is the largest Jewish nonprofit organization in the world. It was established in 1929 as the operative branch of the World Zionist Organization (WZO). Its mission is to "ensure that every Jewish person feels an unbreakable bond to one another and to Israel no matter where they live in the world, so that they can continue to play their critical role in our ongoing Jewish story."[5]

It is best known as the primary organization fostering the immigration ("Aliyah") and absorption of Jews and their families from the Jewish diaspora into Israel.[6] Since 1948 the Jewish Agency for Israel has brought 3 million immigrants to Israel,[7] and offers them transitional housing in "absorption centers" throughout the country.[8]

The Jewish Agency played a central role in the founding and the development of the State of Israel. David Ben-Gurion served as the Chairman of its Executive Committee from 1935, and in this capacity on May 14, 1948 he proclaimed independence for the State of Israel.[9] He became Israel's first Prime Minister. In the years before and after the founding of the state, the Jewish Agency oversaw the establishment of about 1,000 towns and villages in Mandate Palestine. It serves as the main link between Israel and Jewish communities around the world.[10][11]

As of 2019, the Jewish Agency operates and/or funds programs worldwide that:

  • Connect young Jews to Israel and their Jewish identity, such as "Israel experience" trips, Jewish summer camps and day school programs, and encounters with Israelis.
  • Connect young Israelis to the Jewish people and their Jewish identity, such as through sister-city style partnerships in Partnership2Gether; support for Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox educational programs; and the Ami-Unity initiative.
  • Facilitate Aliyah and immigrant absorption, such as providing pre-Aliyah services and post-Aliyah transitional housing and Hebrew lessons.
  • Help vulnerable populations in Israel, such as Youth Futures mentoring programs, residential Youth Villages for teens at risk, and Amigour housing for the elderly.[12]

By law, the Jewish Agency is a para-statal organization, but it does not receive core funding from the Israeli government.[13] The Jewish Agency is funded by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), Keren Hayesod, major Jewish communities and federations, and foundations and donors from Israel and around the world.[14][12]

In 2008 the Jewish Agency won the Israel Prize for its historical contribution to Israel and to the worldwide Jewish community.[15]

Current programs

As of 2019, the Jewish Agency sponsors dozens of programs that connect Jews to Israel and to each other. The Agency organizes the programs into four different categories: 1. Connecting young Jews to Israel and their Jewish identity (Jewish and Zionist education in the Jewish diaspora), 2. Connecting young Israelis to the Jewish people and their Jewish identity, 3. Aliyah and absorption, 4. Supporting vulnerable populations in Israel.[16][12]

Some programs:

Connecting young Jews to Israel and their Jewish identity

Israel experiences

The Israel Experience programs bring young Jews from around the globe to Israel to get to know the country and deepen their Jewish identities.[17]

  • Taglit-Birthright Israel provides ten-day educational trips to Israel for Jews ages 18 to 26 from around the world, completely free of charge.[18] The Jewish Agency is the largest organizational partner in the initiative and is directly involved in bringing thousands of participants on Taglit-Birthright each year, with a special focus on facilitating Taglit-Birthright experiences for participants from the United States and from the former Soviet Union (FSU).Aliyah") and absorption of Jews and their families from the Jewish diaspora into Israel.[6] Since 1948 the Jewish Agency for Israel has brought 3 million immigrants to Israel,[7] and offers them transitional housing in "absorption centers" throughout the country.[8]

    The Jewish Agency played a central role in the founding and the development of the State of Israel. David Ben-Gurion served as the Chairman of its Executive Committee from 1935, and in this capacity on May 14, 1948 he proclaimed independence for the State of Israel.[9] He became Israel's first Prime Minister. In the years before and after the founding of the state, the Jewish Agency oversaw the establishment of about 1,000 towns and villages in Mandate Palestine. It serves as the main link between Israel and Jewish communities around the world.[10][11]

    As of 2019, the Jewish Agency operates and/or funds programs worldwide that:

    By law, the Jewish Agency is a para-statal organization, but it does not receive core funding from the Israeli government.[13] The Jewish Agency is funded by the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), Keren Hayesod, major Jewish communities and federations, and foundations and donors from Israel and around the world.[14][12]

    In 2008 the Jewish Agency won the Israel Prize for its historical contribution to Israel and to the worldwide Jewish community.[15]

    Current programs

    As of 2019, the Jewish Agency sponsors dozens of programs that connect Jews to Israel and to each other. The Agency organizes the programs into four different categories: 1. Connecting young Jews to Israel and their Jewish identity (Jewish and Zionist education in the Jewish diaspora), 2. Connecting young Israelis to the Jewish people and their Jewish identity, 3. Aliyah and absorption, 4. Supporting vulnerable populations in Israel.[16][12]

    Some programs:

    Connecting young Jews to Israel and their Jewish identity

    Israel experiences

    The Israel Experience programs bring young Jews from around the globe to Israel to get to know the country and deepen their Jewish identities.[17]

    • Taglit-Birthright Israel provides ten-day educational trips to Israel for Jews ages 18 to 26 from around the world, completely free of charge.[18] The Jewish Agency is the largest organizational partner in the initiative and is directly involved in bringing thousands of participants on Taglit-Birthright each year, with a special focus on facilitating Taglit-Birthright experien

      In 2008 the Jewish Agency won the Israel Prize for its historical contribution to Israel and to the worldwide Jewish community.[15]

      As of 2019, the Jewish Agency sponsors dozens of programs that connect Jews to Israel and to each other. The Agency organizes the programs into four different categories: 1. Connecting young Jews to Israel and their Jewish identity (Jewish and Zionist education in the Jewish diaspora), 2. Connecting young Israelis to the Jewish people and their Jewish identity, 3. Aliyah and absorption, 4. Supporting vulnerable populations in Israel.[16][12]

      Some programs:

      Connecting young Jews to Israel and their Jewish identity

      Israel experiences

      The Israel Experience programs bring young Jews from around the globe to Israel to get to know the country and deepen their Jewish identities.[17]

      • Taglit-Birthright Israel provides ten-day educational trips to Israel for Jews ages 18 to 26 from around the world, completely free of charge.[18] The Jewish Agency is the largest organizational partner in the initiative and is directly involved in bringing thousands of participants on Taglit-Birthright each year, with a special focus on facilitating Taglit-Birthright experiences for participants from the United States and from the former Soviet Union (FSU).[19][20][21][22]
      • Masa Israel Journey is a public-service organization founded in 2004 by the Government of Israel's Office of the Prime Minister, together with the Jewish Agency.[23] It includes programs in Israel for Jews aged 18–30, including study programs, service programs, and career development. Programs last from 2–12 months.[24] In 2018 it provided scholarships to nearly 9,800 participants.[22][12] Masa also performs outreach and operates alumni activities.[25]
      • Israel Tech Challenge is a partnership of the Jewish Agency with the National Cyber Bureau and other partners and donors. It offers trips to Israel of varying lengths for students and young professionals (aged 18–30) with knowledge in the field of computer science and programming. The programs offer visits with Israeli hi-tech professionals and academics, along with experience or training in coding, cyber security and/or data science.[26][27]
      • Machon Le Madrichim trains Jewish counselors from Zionist youth movements around the world in Israel, to give them tools for running educational Zionist programs in their home communities when they return. It was founded in 1946 by the World Zionist Organization. As of 2018, it had 17,000 alumni from around the world. Today the Machon trains several hundred young leaders each year.[12]
      • Na'ale allows Jewish teenagers from the diaspora to study in Israel and earn a high school diploma. Students start the program in ninth or tenth grade and graduate after the twelfth grade with a full Israeli matriculation certificate (bagrut). During the first year, students follow an intensive Hebrew-language program so that they become able to speak, read and write in Hebrew. The program is fully subsidized by the Israeli government. The Na'ale scholarship includes: fully subsidized tuition, free ticket to Israel, room and board, health insurance, trips, and extra curricular activities. Na'ale offers a variety of schools all over Israel from which candidates may choose, including secular, national religious, ultra-orthodox, kibbutz, and urban boarding schools.[28] The Jewish Agency is involved in recruitment in the former Soviet Union.[22][12]

      Jewish and Zionist education outside Israel

      In its mission to strengthen the ties between Israel and worldwide Jewry and to promote Jewish culture and Some programs:

      The Israel Experience programs bring young Jews from around the globe to Israel to get to know the country and deepen their Jewish identities.[17]

      • Taglit-Birthright Israel provides ten-day educational trips to Israel for Jews ages 18 to 26 from around the world, completely free of charge.[18] The Jewish Agency is the largest organizational partner in the initiative and is directly involved in bringing thousands of participants on Taglit-Birthright each year, with a special focus on facilitating Taglit-Birthright experiences for participants from the United States and from the former Soviet Union (FSU).[19]Jewish culture and identity, the Jewish Agency sends out shlichim, or emissaries, to Jewish communities across the globe; partners with Israel and Diaspora communities, and operates and/or funds Jewish educational programs. It also supports Jewish inclusion and diversity programs.[29]

        • Jewish Agency Israel Fellows are Israeli young adults who have completed army service and university study. These "Campus Shlichim" travel for two years university campuses with the goal of empowering student leadership and promoting positive engagement with Israel. According to the Jewish Agency, the aims of an Israel Fellow are to "create an ongoing Israel presence for Jewish students and the broader community . . . . partner with student organizations, campus study abroad offices, Jewish and Israel studies departments, local Jewish federations, Israeli consulates, and Jewish Community Centers ... [and] follow through with Taglit-Birthright trip alumni via one-on-one meetings and special programs and events to keep them active and encourage them to continue their Jewish journeys while in college."[30] In 2017-18, 92 Fellows were sent to campuses in North America, South America, and other regions.[31][32][33][30][22]
        • Shlichim (Jewish Agency "emissaries") are active in communal organizations, Jewish schools, community centers, synagogues and youth movements. There are also summer Shlichim who serve in Jewish summer camps. They serve as a central resource for Israel education in the local community.[34] In the 2017-18 program year, the Jewish Agency sent 1,388 short-term emissaries to summer camps and other programs, and around 400 long-term emissaries to countries around the world (not including the Israel Fellows).[31][22][12]
        • Programs for Russian-speaking Jewry: The organization has developed special outreach to Russian Jewry, because they have largely been separated from Jewish communities even after the fall of the Soviet Union. Only an estimated 20 percent of the 800,000 Jews across former Soviet states are engaged in Jewish life. And Russian Jews who have emigrated to other countries have often been separated from Jewish community life. The Agency runs programs for them (in the former Soviet Union, Germany, Austria and Israel) that fall are organized into four areas: (1) Camping, youth education, and counselor training (2) leadership training (3) visits to Israel (4) Focus on facilitation of Aliyah from the former Soviet Union and Germany.
        • FSU Summer and Winter Camps introduce young Russian-speaking Jews in the former Soviet Union to their Jewish heritage. Staffed by trained local counselors and Russian-speaking Israeli counselors, participants are introduced to Jewish history, Jewish customs and practices, and Israel. The Agency organizes counselors to follow up with attendees in year-round Jewish educational activities.[35] In 2018, some 8,200 participants in the former Soviet Union attended sleepaway camps and 1,487 went to day camps.[36][22][12]
        • Partnership2Gether and the Global School Twinning Network - see below.
        • The Emergency Assistance Fund provides for physical security improvements, such as video surveillance & CCTV, alarms, locks, gates, and reinforced walls/doors/windows, at synagogues, Jewish community centers, schools, and camps so that Jewish communal life can continue in greater safety. Jewish institutions outside Israel and North America are eligible for assistance. The 2018 allocations totaled around $1.4 million: $781,000 to institutions in Europe, $423,000 to facilities in Latin America, $82,000 to those in the former Soviet Union, and $109,000 to the Middle East. As of the end of 2018, the Fund has allocated over $11.5 million to hundreds of institutions in dozens of countries.[12]
        • The Jewish Agency still brings thousands of Jews to move to Israel each year. In 2014, The Agency helped a total of nearly 26,500 olim (immigrants) make Aliyah, the highest number in 13 years.[48] They noted significant growth in immigration from Ukraine and France.[48] The Agency continues to support these olim as they integrate into Israeli society.

          • Aliyah of Rescue is the Jewish Agency's Aliyah infrastructure that brings Jews suffering persecution or economic distress to Israel.[49] The services include covert operations to help Jews move out of Middle Eastern and North African countries with which Israel does not have diplomatic relations.[50]
          • Pre-Aliyah Services are provided by the Jewish Agency to prospective immigrants around the world. Agency shlichim, or emissaries, give guidance on issues such as education, housing, health and employment opportunities in Israel. For those who do not have an emissary nearby, The Agency provides assistance online and on the phone through its Global Service Center.[51] Additionally, The Agency is responsible for verifying that each potential immigrant is eligible for Aliyah under Israel's Law of Return and, once eligibility is proven, for facilitating the receipt of the Aliyah visa via the local Israeli embassy or consulate.[52]
          • Absorption Centers around the country offer temporary housing for new immigrants and provide space for Hebrew instruction, preparation for life and employment in Israel, events, activities and cultural presentations. 17 of The Agency's 22 Absorption Centers cater specifically to Ethiopian olim and provide services tailored to the needs of the Ethiopian community. The other five house immigrants from around the world, primarily the FSU, South America, and the Middle East.[51][53]
          • Ulpan: Intensive Hebrew language programs for new immigrants include five hours of immersive language instruction, five days a week, for five months. The programs are offered free of charge to all new immigrants. Ulpan instructors are certified by the Ministry of Education.[54]
          • Centers for Young Adults provide ulpan classes, accommodations and a range of services to ease absorption for olim ages 18–35. These centers include the Ulpan Etzion network for college graduates and young professionals; Beit Brodetzky in Tel Aviv and Ulpan Kinneret in Tiberias, for high school graduates looking for job or army preparation; and Kibbutz Ulpan, combining Hebrew instruction with volunteer work on ten different kibbutzim.[55][56] It also includes Selah, a program for high school graduates from the Former Soviet Union, and TAKA, which combines ulpan studies with pre-academic preparatory courses for immigrants headed to Israeli colleges who wish to polish their skills.[56][57][58][59]
          • Wings encompasses an array of services including practical guidance and personal mentorship for young immigrants who join the IDF as lone soldiers, far from their families.[56][60]

          Supporting vulnerable populations in Israel

          The Jewish Agency also helps vulnerable populations in Israel and around the world.

          • Youth Futures is a community-based initiative for mentoring at-risk pre-teens and adolescents. Each Youth Futures "mentor" works with 16 at-risk children over the course of three years, teaching skills for academic improvement and social integration. In 2014–15, approximately 350 trained Youth Futures staff members worked with 5,000 children and teens, plus 7,000 of their family members, in 200 schools in 35 communities in Israel. In addition to secular and traditional Jews, Youth Futures serves Arab, Bedouin, Druze, and Ultra-Orthodox communities.[61][62]
          • Youth Villages provide safe, cost-effective boarding school settings for 850 young people ages 12 to 18 who have severe emotional, behavioral and family problems. The four Jewish Agency youth villages provide intensive, holistic services and help the youths succeed in and complete high school, and enter the Israeli army with their peers.[63][64][62]
          • Project TEN brings together young Israelis and their Jewish peers from across the globe to work on sustainable projects in developing regions.[65] Participants spend three months working in onsite service projects in vulnerable communities. Project TEN is a service-learning program designed to build participants' Jewish identities while they serve others.[66] In 2016, Project TEN runs volunteer centers in Winneba, Ghana; Oaxaca, Mexico; Gondar, Ethiopia; Kibbutz Harduf, Israel; and Arad, Israel.[67][68] In 2015 the program involved 200 volunteers around the world.[69]
          • Young Activism includes programs that train and support young-adult Israeli volunteers, who go on to create their own social entrepreneurship projects, thus widening the circles of influence.[70] The Young Activism programs include (a) support for Young Communities, groups of idealistic young Israelis who commit to settling long-term in Israel's high-need areas and creating programs that increase local quality of life. (b) Choosing Tomorrow, which encourages university students in Israel's outlying areas to create young communities and settle long-term in the region (c) Ketzev, which provides extra training and mentoring to some of the young communities to help them build self-sustaining "social entrepreneurship" businesses, that provide cultural or educational benefits to customers. (d) Click, which provides microgrants to individual volunteers or very small groups, to help them launch small-scale local projects. (e) The Young Adults' Hub in Arad, where dozens of Israelis and Diaspora Jews receive subsidized housing in exchange for their volunteer activities for the city.[71][72][73][74][75]
          • Net@ gives high-performing teenagers an opportunity to rise above their families' socio-economic backgrounds by training them for four years in marketable computer skills, leading to certification as computer and network technicians through Cisco Systems. The program is in addition to the participants' high school course load and also increases their English comprehension skills.[76] In 2014, around 1,100 teens participated in the program, and another 400 children participated in Net@ Junior.[77][78]
          • Loan funds assist entrepreneurs and business owners in Israel to open or expand their businesses, through loans with highly attractive conditions as well as comprehensive business guidance. The Jewish Agency acts as a partial guarantor for the loans, to support those businesses that otherwise would have a difficult time qualifying for loans or presenting the necessary collateral for them.[79] The various funds have different eligibility criteria, with some focusing on stimulating the economy in specific regions of Israel, and others focusing on specific populations of business owners, such as Israeli Arabs, Ethiopian-Israelis, immigrants, etc.[80]
          • The Fund for Victims of Terror provides two forms of financial assistance to those who have been wounded, or had family members killed, in a terrorist attack or war against Israel. It provides immediate assistance in the 24–48 hours after the attack, and it provides subsidies for long-term rehabilitation needs.[81] In 2014, the fund provided emergency grants to 120 families impacted by Operation Protective Edge, and more than 1 million shekels (around $250,000 according to the exchange rate at the time) to 80 families with long-term effects from Operation Pillar of Defense.
          • Amigour[82] is a Jewish Agency subsidiary that provides housing for Israel's elderly. In 2014 it operated 57 facilities that housed 7,500 seniors, mainly Holocaust survivors. Additionally, it operates 13,000 public housing apartments that provide government-subsidized housing to 40,000 single-parent families, elderly, and new immigrants.[62][83]

          Services for Israeli Arabs and minorities

          Responses to military crises in Israel

          During times of military crisis, the Jewish Agency for Israel provides a comprehensive range of services that, for the sake of efficiency and to avoid duplicating resources, are coordinated fully with the Government of Israel and other major organizations. Among them are:[22]

          Respite camping for children in the line of fire: For example, During the 2006 Lebanon War, the Jewish Agency moved 50,000 children from northern Israel to 50 residential camps out of the rocket range. 12,000 children went to Jewish Agency-equipped camp-style day care held in community centers. During the 2014 Israel-Gaz

          During times of military crisis, the Jewish Agency for Israel provides a comprehensive range of services that, for the sake of efficiency and to avoid duplicating resources, are coordinated fully with the Government of Israel and other major organizations. Among them are:[22]

          Respite camping for children in the line of fire: For example, During the 2006 Lebanon War, the Jewish Agency moved 50,000 children from northern Israel to 50 residential camps out of the rocket range. 12,000 children went to Jewish Agency-equipped camp-style day care held in community centers. During the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict (Operation Protective Edge) the Jewish Agency arranged for children from Israeli areas in the line of fire to enjoy "days of respite" for fun activities in regions less likely to experience air raids. According to the organization's Annual Report for 2014-15, they provided 73,500 such experiences.[94]

          Special services for lone soldiers on the front: During the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, the Jewish Agency provided mental health intervention and financial support to 340 "lone soldiers," IDF soldiers from overseas who do not have close family members living in Israel.[31]

          Trauma therapy and other extra support for residents of absorption centers: During the 2006 Lebanon War, after a number of absorption centers were hit by rockets, the Jewish Agency moved 2,100 new immigrants to safety and distributed 2,700 bomb shelter kits. During the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, they provided 2,000 hours of therapy for new immigrants.[95]

          Special loan funds for small businesses in affected areas, to prevent them from going out of business and to boost the local economy during times of distress. For example, during the 2006 Lebanon War, the Jewish Agency established a micro-business loan fund in the north.

          Fund for the Victims of Terror: During the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, for example, the Jewish Agency gave 120 grants from the Fund for the Victims of Terror to Israeli families who had suffered death or major physical injury.

          Scholarships for university students in affected areas: In the aftermath of the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, for example, the Jewish Agency distributed 1,300 scholarships in March 2015 to students who live 0–4 kilometres (0.0–2.5 mi), or study 0–40 kilometres (0–25 mi), from the Gaza border.[95]

          Sderot

          Bomb shelter in Sderot, Israel

          The Jewish Agency has played an important role in supporting the residents of Sderot and the surrounding area, which has been the target of many rockets launched from Gaza.[96] More than 12,000 children have enjoyed respite activities in the center and north of the country (during Operation Protective Edge); 300 educators have been trained to work with children living through trauma (during Operation Cast Lead); supplemental educational activities have been offered to more than 2,000 students; the S.O.S. Emergency Fund for Victims of Terror helped more than 200 people whose lives were directly affected by the Kassam attacks; 100 bomb shelters were renovated in the region during Cast Lead and 500 during Operation Protective Edge; and 500 students received scholarships (during Cast Lead) to study at Sapir College in Sderot, with more scheduled to receive scholarships[94] as of the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge.

          Israel Fires Emergency Fund

          In November 2016, Israel experienced eight days of devastating fires. At least 75,000 people were evacuated from their residences, as 1,773 blazes razed over 600 homes and damaged hundreds more. The Government of Israel determined that while most were caused by weather conditions and negligence, many had been acts of terror.

          Within days, the Jewish Agency created the Israel Fires Emergency Fund, modeled on the Fund for Victims of Terror. Generous contributions from partners, the Jewish Federations of North America—led by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and CJP-Greater Boston's Jewish Federation—as well as Keren Hayesod and other donors, allowed the Jewish Agency to issue grants of $1,000 per household to victims right away. These funds provided immediate support as families faced urgent needs of food, shelter and clothing. By the end of December 2016, the Jewish Agency had delivered 618 grants across the country, with 29 additional grants in the first months of 2017.[97]

          History

          Name

          Established as the Palestine Office (of the Zionist Organization) in 1908, the organization became the Zionist Commission, later Palestine Zionist Executive, which was designated in 1929 as the "Jewish agency" provided for in the League of Nations' Palestine Mandate[98] and was thus again renamed as The Jewish Agency for Palestine. After the establishment of the State it received its current name, The Jewish Agency for Israel.

          1908–1928: Beginnings as an arm of the World Zionist Organization2006 Lebanon War, the Jewish Agency moved 50,000 children from northern Israel to 50 residential camps out of the rocket range. 12,000 children went to Jewish Agency-equipped camp-style day care held in community centers. During the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict (Operation Protective Edge) the Jewish Agency arranged for children from Israeli areas in the line of fire to enjoy "days of respite" for fun activities in regions less likely to experience air raids. According to the organization's Annual Report for 2014-15, they provided 73,500 such experiences.[94]

          Special services for lone soldiers on the front: During the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, the Jewish Agency provided mental health intervention and financial support to 340 "lone soldiers," IDF soldiers from overseas who do not have close family members living in Israel.[31]

          Trauma therapy and other extra support for residents of absorption centers: During the 2006 Lebanon War, after a number of absorption centers were hit by rockets, the Jewish Agency moved 2,100 new immigrants to safety and distributed 2,700 bomb shelter kits. During the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, they provided 2,000 hours of therapy for new immigrants.[95]

          Special loan funds for small businesses in affected areas, to prevent them from going out of business and to boost the local economy during times of distress. For example, during the 2006 Lebanon War, the Jewish Agency established a micro-business loan fund in the north.

          Fund for the Victims of Terror: During the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, for example, the Jewish Agency gave 120 grants from the Fund for the Victims of Terror to Israeli families who had suffered death or major physical injury.

          Scholarships for university students in affected areas: In the aftermath of the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, for example, the Jewish Agency distributed 1,300 scholarships in March 2015 to students who live 0–4 kilometres (0.0–2.5 mi), or study 0–40 kilometres (0–25 mi), from the Gaza border.[95]

          The Jewish Agency has played an important role in supporting the residents of Sderot and the surrounding area, which has been the target of many rockets launched from Gaza.[96] More than 12,000 children have enjoyed respite activities in the center and north of the country (during Operation Protective Edge); 300 educators have been trained to work with children living through trauma (during Operation Cast Lead); supplemental educational activities have been offered to more than 2,000 students; the S.O.S. Emergency Fund for Victims of Terror helped more than 200 people whose lives were directly affected by the Kassam attacks; 100 bomb shelters were renovated in the region during Cast Lead and 500 during Operation Protective Edge; and 500 students received scholarships (during Cast Lead) to study at Sapir College in Sderot, with more scheduled to receive scholarships[94] as of the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge.

          Israel Fires Emergency Fund

          In November 2016, Israel experienced eight days of devastating fires. At least 75,000 people were evacuated from their residences, as 1,773 blazes razed over 600 homes and damaged hundreds more. The Government of Israel determined that while most were caused by weather conditions and negligence, many had been acts of terror.

          Within days, the Jewish Agency created the Israel Fires Emergency Fund, modeled on the Fund for Victims of Terror. Generous contributions from partners, the Jewish Federations of North America—led by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and CJP-Greater Boston's Jewish Federation—as well as Keren Hayesod and other donors, allowed the Jewish Agency to issue grants of $1,000 per household to victims rig

          In November 2016, Israel experienced eight days of devastating fires. At least 75,000 people were evacuated from their residences, as 1,773 blazes razed over 600 homes and damaged hundreds more. The Government of Israel determined that while most were caused by weather conditions and negligence, many had been acts of terror.

          Within days, the Jewish Agency created the Israel Fires Emergency Fund, modeled on the Fund for Victims of Terror. Generous contributions from partners, the Jewish Federations of North America—led by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and CJP-Greater Boston's Jewish Federation—as well as Keren Hayesod and other donors, allowed the Jew

          Within days, the Jewish Agency created the Israel Fires Emergency Fund, modeled on the Fund for Victims of Terror. Generous contributions from partners, the Jewish Federations of North America—led by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago and CJP-Greater Boston's Jewish Federation—as well as Keren Hayesod and other donors, allowed the Jewish Agency to issue grants of $1,000 per household to victims right away. These funds provided immediate support as families faced urgent needs of food, shelter and clothing. By the end of December 2016, the Jewish Agency had delivered 618 grants across the country, with 29 additional grants in the first months of 2017.[97]

          Established as the Palestine Office (of the Zionist Organization) in 1908, the organization became the Zionist Commission, later Palestine Zionist Executive, which was designated in 1929 as the "Jewish agency" provided for in the League of Nations' Palestine Mandate[98] and was thus again renamed as The Jewish Agency for Palestine. After the establishment of the State it received its current name, The Jewish Agency for Israel.

          1908–1928: Beginnings as an arm of the World Zionist Organization

          The Jewish Agency began as the Palestine Office (Hebrew: המשרד הארץ-ישראלי, HaMisrad HaEretz Yisraeli, lit. "Office for the Land of Israel"), founded in Jaffa in 1908, as the operational branch of the Zionist Organization (ZO) in Ottoman-controlled Palestine under the leadership of Arthur Ruppin.[99] The main tasks of the Palestine Office were to represent the Jews of Palestine in dealings with the Turkish sultan and other foreign dignitaries, to aid Jewish immigration, and to buy land for Jews to settle.[100]

          Theodore Herzl's vision for a solution to "the Jewish question": the issue of anti-Semitism and the place of Jews in the world. In his pamphlet "The Jewish State," Herzl envisioned the Jewish people settled as an independent nation on its own land, taking its place among the other nation-states of the world. The Palestine Office, which eventually became the Jewish Agency, was based upon Herzl's organizational ideas for how to bring a Jewish state into being.[101]

          The influx of Jews to Palestine on the Second Aliyah (1904-1914) made the purchase of land particularly urgent. With the aid of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the Palestine Office bought land for newcomers in two locations: Chavat Kinneret (near the Sea of Galilee), and Kibbutz Ruhama (near Sderot of today). Kibbutz Ruhama was specifically designated for Russian Jews from the Second Aliyah. Over the following decades, the Palestine Office established hundreds more moshavim and kibbutzim throughout Palestine.[102] The Palestine Office continued to purchase land together with JNF (In Hebrew: Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael, KKL).

          With the o

          The influx of Jews to Palestine on the Second Aliyah (1904-1914) made the purchase of land particularly urgent. With the aid of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), the Palestine Office bought land for newcomers in two locations: Chavat Kinneret (near the Sea of Galilee), and Kibbutz Ruhama (near Sderot of today). Kibbutz Ruhama was specifically designated for Russian Jews from the Second Aliyah. Over the following decades, the Palestine Office established hundreds more moshavim and kibbutzim throughout Palestine.[102] The Palestine Office continued to purchase land together with JNF (In Hebrew: Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael, KKL).

          With the outbreak of World War I, the anticipated disintegration of the Ottoman Empire raised hopes among Zionists for increased Jewish immigration and eventual sovereignty in Palestine.[103] In 1918, Great Britain conquered the region and it fell under British military rule.[104]

          Following the promulgation of the pro-Zionist Balfour Declaration of 1917, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, president of the British Zionist Federation[105] formed the Zionist Commission in March 1918 to go to Palestine and make recommendations to the British government. The Commission reached Palestine on 14 April 1918 and proceeded to study conditions and to report to the British government,[106] and was active in promoting Zionist objectives in Palestine. Weizmann was instrumental in restructuring the ZO's Palestine office into departments for agriculture, settlement, education, land, finance, immigration, and statistics. The Palestine Office was merged into the Zionist Commission, headed by Chaim Weizmann.[107]

          The front page of the Mandate for Palestine and Transjordan memorandum, presented to UK Parliament in December 1922, prior to it coming into force in 1923. The British control of the re

          On 25 April 1920, the Principal Allied Powers agreed at the San Remo conference to allocate the Ottoman territories to the victorious powers and assigned Palestine, Transjordan and Iraq as Mandates to Britain, with the Balfour Declaration being incorporated into the Palestine Mandate. The League of Nations formally approved these mandates in 1922.[108] Article 4 of the Mandate provided for "the recognition of an appropriate Jewish agency as a public body for the purpose of advising and co-operating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish National Home and the interests of the Jewish population of Palestine."[98][109] The ZO leaders had contributed to the drafting of the Mandate.[110] In November 1921, the Zionist Commission became the Palestine Zionist Executive and was designated as the Jewish agency for Palestine for the purpose of Article 4 of the Palestine Mandate.[111][112]

          In 1921 Ze'ev Jabotinsky was elected to the Executive but he resigned in 1923, accusing Weizmann of not being vigorous enough with the Mandatory Government.[103] Other issues between the Revisionists and the agency were the distribution of entry permits, Weizmann's support for the Zionist Labour Movement, and the proposal to expand the Agency. The Revisionists broke completely with Agency in 1935, but rejoined ZO in 1947.[103] In 1951 the ZO/JA included all Zionist organizations except Herut.[113]

          In 1921 Ze'ev Jabotinsky was elected to the Executive but he resigned in 1923, accusing Weizmann of not being vigorous enough with the Mandatory Government.[103] Other issues between the Revisionists and the agency were the distribution of entry permits, Weizmann's support for the Zionist Labour Movement, and the proposal to expand the Agency. The Revisionists broke completely with Agency in 1935, but rejoined ZO in 1947.[103] In 1951 the ZO/JA included all Zionist organizations except Herut.[113]

          The Palestine Zionist Executive was charged with facilitating Jewish immigration to Palestine, land purchase, and planning the general policies of the Zionist leadership. It ran schools and hospitals, and formed a defence force, the Haganah.[100] Chaim Weizmann was the leader of both the World Zionist Organization and the Palestine Zionist Executive until 1929. The arrangement enabled the ZO to issue entry permits to new immigrants.[114]

          In 1929, the Palestine Zionist Executive was renamed, restructured and officially inaugurated as The Jewish Agency for Palestine by the 16th Zionist Congress, held in Zurich, Switzerland.[115] The new body was larger and included a number of Jewish non-Zionist individuals and organizations, who were interested in Jewish settlement in Palestine. They were philanthropic rather than political, and many opposed talk of a Jewish State.[116] With this broader Jewish representation,[117] the Jewish Agency for Palestine was recognized by the British in 1930, in lieu of the Zionist Organization, as the appropriate Jewish agency under the terms of the Mandate.[118] The 16th Zionist Congress determined that in the event of the future dissolution of the Agency, the Zionist Organisation would replace it as representative of the Jews for the purpose of the Mandate.[119]

          There was strong opposition within the ZO when the idea of enlargement of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency was first raised in 1924 to include non-Zionist Jews, and the idea was accepted by the Zionist Congress only in 1927.[120]

          Even though non-Zionists took part in the Agency, it was still closely tied to the Zionist Organization. The President of the ZO served as the chair of the Executive Council and the Assembly of the Jewish Agency, and half of the members of the Agency's governing bodies were chosen by the ZO, ensuring a unified policy and close cooperation between the two organizations.[121][119] The change was Chaim Weizmann's initiative and was established on the principle of parity between Zionist and non-Zionist Jews working together in the building of a Jewish national home.[122]

          Those participating included Sholem Asch, H.N. Bialik, Leon Blum, Albert Einstein, Immanuel Löw, [120]

          Even though non-Zionists took part in the Agency, it was still closely tied to the Zionist Organization. The President of the ZO served as the chair of the Executive Council and the Assembly of the Jewish Agency, and half of the members of the Agency's governing bodies were chosen by the ZO, ensuring a unified policy and close cooperation between the two organizations.[121][119] The change was Chaim Weizmann's initiative and was established on the principle of parity between Zionist and non-Zionist Jews working together in the building of a Jewish national home.[122]

          Those participating included Sholem Asch, H.N. Bialik, Leon Blum, Albert Einstein, Immanuel Löw, Lord Melchett and Herbert Samuel.[123] American non-Zionists received 44 of the 112 seats allotted to non-Zionists.[124] The British Board of Deputies joined as a constituent body.[125]

          Weizmann was criticized for being too pro-British. When the 1930 White Paper was published recommending restricting Jewish immigration, his position became untenable and he resigned from the ZO and the Jewish Agency. He protested that the British had betrayed their commitment expressed in the Balfour Declaration and that he could no longer work with them.[126] Nahum Sokolow, who had been elected to succeed Weizmann, remained in his position. Arthur Ruppin succeeded Sokolow as Chairman of the Jewish Agency in 1933 and David Ben-Gurion and Moshe Shertok joined the executive. In 1935, Ben-Gurion was elected Chairman of the Agency to succeed Ruppin.[127]

          In 1937 The Peel Commission published its report into the disturbances of the year before. For the first time, partition and the setting up of a Jewish State was recommended. The 1937 Zionist Congress rejected the Commission's conclusions, a majority insisting that the Balfour Declaration referred to all of Palestine and Transjordan, but the executive was authorized to continue exploring what the "precise terms" were.[128] This decision revealed differences within the Jewish Agency,

          In 1937 The Peel Commission published its report into the disturbances of the year before. For the first time, partition and the setting up of a Jewish State was recommended. The 1937 Zionist Congress rejected the Commission's conclusions, a majority insisting that the Balfour Declaration referred to all of Palestine and Transjordan, but the executive was authorized to continue exploring what the "precise terms" were.[128] This decision revealed differences within the Jewish Agency, with the non-Zionists disagreeing with the decision and some calling for a conference of Jews and Arabs.[129]

          In 1947 the last non-Zionist member of the Jewish Agency, Werner Senator, resigned[122] and while the 50 percent participation of non-Zionists in the Agency before had not worked in practice, the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization now became de facto identical.[130]

          From 1929 to 1948, the Jewish Agency was organized into four departments: the Government Department (performing foreign relations on behalf of the Jewish community of Palestine); the Security Department; the Aliyah Department, and the Education Department. The Jewish Agency Executive included David Ben-Gurion as chairman, and Rabbi Yehuda Leib Maimon and Yitzhak Gruenbaum, among others. The Jewish Agency was (and is still) housed in a fortress-like building in the Rehavia neighborhood of Jerusalem.[131] The land for the Rehavia neighborhood had been purchased in 1922 by the Palestine Land Development Corporation,[132] and construction of the Jewish Agency headquarters was paid for by the ZO. The three-winged structure with a large open courtyard was designed by Yochanan Rattner.[132] Along with the Jewish Agency it also houses the headquarters of the JNF and Keren Hayesod-United Israel Appeal. On March 11, 1948, a bomb planted in the courtyard of the building by Arab militants killed 13 and wounded many others.[133] The Keren Hayesod wing was completely destroyed.[134] Leib Yaffe, director-general of Keren Hayesod, was among those killed in the bombing.[135]

          The building continues to serve as the headquarters of the Jewish Agency as of 2019. Another building "Kiriyat Moria" is located in southern-east Jerusalem, Armon Hanatziv, Ha-Askan 3. The organization also has satellite sites worldwide.

          Pre-state immigration and settlement 1934–1948

          Throughout the years 1934–1948, in a phenomenon known as the Ha'apala (ascension), the Jewish Agency facilitated clandestine immigration beyond the British quotas. In 1938 it established HaMosad LeAliyah B

          Throughout the years 1934–1948, in a phenomenon known as the Ha'apala (ascension), the Jewish Agency facilitated clandestine immigration beyond the British quotas. In 1938 it established HaMosad LeAliyah Bet ('המוסד לעלייה ב, lit. Institution for Immigration B), which took charge of the effort. Overall, in these years, The Agency, in partnership with other organizations, helped over 150,000 people in their attempt to enter Palestine, organizing a total of 141 voyages on 116 ships.[136] The potential immigrants were Jews fleeing Nazi atrocities in Europe and, after the war, refugees from DP camps who sought a home in Palestine. Most of the Ma'apilim ships (of the Ha'apala movement) were intercepted by the British, but a few thousand Jews did manage to slip past the authorities. The operation as a whole also helped to unify the long-standing Jewish community in Palestine as well as the newcomer Jewish refugees from Europe.[137]

          [138]

          In 1933 the Jewish Agency negotiated a Ha'avara (Transfer) Agreement with Nazi Germany under which approximately 50,000 German Jews were allowed to immigrate to Palestine and retain some of their assets as German export goods.[139]

          In 1943, the Jewish Agency's Henrietta Szold joined Recha Freier in developing the Youth Aliyah program, which between 1933 and 1948 rescued more 5,000 young Jews from Europe, brought them to Palestine, and educated them in special boarding schools.[140][139]

          In 1943, the Jewish Agency's Henrietta Szold joined Recha Freier in developing the Youth Aliyah program, which between 1933 and 1948 rescued more 5,000 young Jews from Europe, brought them to Palestine, and educated them in special boarding schools.[140][141][142] According to Professor Dvora Hacohen, between 1933 and 2011 the Youth Aliyah movement helped over 300,000 young people make Aliyah.[142]

          When World War II broke out, the Jewish Agency established a committee to aid European Jewry by finding them entry permits to Palestine, sending them food, and maintaining contact. The Agency also helped recruit 40,000 members of the Palestinian Jewish community (a full 8 percent of the Jewish population of Palestine) to be trained by the British military and aid in the Allies' struggle against the Nazis; most served in the Middle East and Africa, but some served behind enemy lines in Europe, among them a group of 32 parachutists that included Hannah Szenes. In total, 800 were killed in their efforts.[143][144]

          When World War II ended the Agency continued to aid illegal immigration to Palestine through HaMossad LeAliyah Bet in an effort known as the Bricha. Between 1945 and 1948 the Jewish Agency send 66 ships of refugees to Palestine.[145] Most were intercepted by British authorities, who placed the illegal immigrants, who had just survived the Holocaust, in detention camps in Palestine and later in Cyprus. Only with the establishment of the State of Israel were the detainees allowed to enter the country.[146]

          Resistance, and formation of Israel's first government

          Irgun, and the Lehi to form a United Resistance Movement against the British.[147] In 1946 British troops raided Jewish Agency headquarters as part of Operation Agatha, a broad effort to quash Jewish resistance in Palestine. Important figures in The Agency including Moshe Sharett, head of the Agency's political department, and Dov Yosef, member of the Agency's Executive Committee, were arrested and imprisoned in Latrun.[148]

          The United Nations recommended the partition of Palestine on 29 November 1947. Meanwhile, the Jewish Agency collaborated with the Jewish National Council to set up a People's Council (Mo'ezet Ha'am) and National Administration (Minhelet Ha'am).[149] After the declaration of independence on 14 May 1948, these two bodies formed the provisional government of the State of Israel.[150]

          The Jewish Agency for Israel

          Post-State immigration, settlement, and infrastructure

          The Jewish Agency is funded by the Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod, major Jewish communities and federations, and foundations and donors from Israel and around the world.[39]

          Due to the volatile U.S. dollar, the global economic crisis and the Madoff scandal, the Jewish Agency for Israel was forced to make significant cuts to its budget. The Board of Governors voted to cut $45 million in November 2008 and an additional $26 million at the February 2009 meeting.[199]

          The organization's total operating budget in 2013 was US$355,833,000, and its projected operating budget for 2014 was US$369,206,000.[39] Its operating budget for 2019 is US$379,807,000.[12]

          Jewish Agency International Development, the organization's main fundraising arm in North America, is a registered 501(c)(3).[200]

          Awards and recognition

          On May 8, 2008, at the Israeli government's 60th Independence Day celebration, the Jewish Agency for Israel was awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement & special contribution to society and the State of Israel.[201][202]

          The Director General is responsible, under the direction of the Chairperson of the Executive, for the implementation of policies established by the Assembly, the Board of Governors and the Executive. In addition, he/she is responsible for all operations and administration of the Jewish Agency, including implementation of long-term strategic goals. The current Director General is Amira Ahronoviz, the first woman to hold the position.[198]

          The Jewish Agency is funded by the Jewish Federations of North America, Keren Hayesod, major Jewish communities and federations, and foundations and donors from Israel and around the world.[39]

          Due to the volatile U.S. dollar, the global economic crisis and the Madoff scandal, the Jewish Agency for Israel was forced to make significant cuts to its budget. The Board of Governors voted to cut $45 million in November 2008 and an additional $26 million at the

          Due to the volatile U.S. dollar, the global economic crisis and the Madoff scandal, the Jewish Agency for Israel was forced to make significant cuts to its budget. The Board of Governors voted to cut $45 million in November 2008 and an additional $26 million at the February 2009 meeting.[199]

          The organization's total operating budget in 2013 was US$355,833,000, and its projected operating budget for 2014 was US$369,206,000.[39] Its operating budget for 2019 is US$379,807,000.[12]

          Jewish Agency International Development, the organization's main fundraising arm in North America, is a registered 501(c)(3).[200]

          On May 8, 2008, at the Israeli government's 60th Independence Day celebration, the Jewish Agency for Israel was awarded the Israel Prize for lifetime achievement & special contribution to society and the State of Israel.[201][202]