Jerusalem, Israel - July 10, 2018 - Over one-hundred members from Keep Olim in Israel Movement (KeepOlim) a Facebook group which has grown in the past four years to over 41,000 members, and is now a registered Israeli nonprofit, attended a special session in the Israel Knesset Negev Room on Monday.
The historical event at the Knesset was led by MK Ksenia Svetlova who heads the Keep Olim lobby in the Knesset. Svetlova was born in Moscow and made aliyah in 1991. A former journalist and associate professor at the Hebrew University, she is a member of Knesset for the Zionist Union.
As KeepOlim founder LiAmi Lawrence said, " KeepOlim started with one frustrated Oleh, me and look what happened. We are over 41,000 Olim strong from over 100 countries!! We are a force to be reckoned with as we tackle the problems of our immigrants one at a time."
After making aliyah, Lawrence had been in Israel for nine months, with no job and needing friends to to bring him food, when he was advised to, "Go make a Facebook group." Within 48 hours he had 3,000 people, and in a week over 8,000. Partnering with Tzvika Graiver, the two have already managed to change the law for new immigrants getting driving licenses.
During the two hour Knesset event six Members of Knesset attended and offered words of encouragement to olim, Pnina Tamano-Shata, Dr. Avraham Neguise, Yehiel Bar, Tzipi Livni, Ayelet Nahmias-Verbin, and Merav Michaeli.
The session opened with Oleh Rabbi Levi Margolin reading a bracha in English for the group.
The program ended with oral presentations by Olim, including from Germany, Bene Menashe plus one from Anne Pollard, who described her lack of support after she served five years in US jail.
Yalou and Ayelin Mengistu, father and brother of Hamas hostage Ethiopian-Israeli Avera Mengistu told the group, if Avera had mental heath counseling in his native language Amharic, he would not be in Gaza today. KeepOlim is initiating a low-cost subsidized Mental Health Program to debut next month. Support Groups will be in the native languages of immigrants, as now only Hebrew and Arabic are available. The statistics for percentage of Olim leaving Israel and suicides are high. One-third of Israeli suicides are Olim.
At the conclusion of the program certificates of merit were presented to Olim, including, Liza Nikolaichuk, director of the center for assistance to victims of violence and sexual violence in the Negev (Maslan); Lenny Ravich, Shakespearean actor and comic; Ephraim Paperny, President Union of Disabled Fighters against Nazism; Zoya Cerkasski-Nnadi artist; Zahava Bracha, head of the Facebook group " restoring the Jewish language of Iraq; plus activists in sports and various areas where Olim have contributed to Israeli society.
Among those commended for volunteer service to KeepOlim were Dr. Yosefa Krauss , Dr. Marc Krauss, and Dr. Kamila Forkosh Lavan, for the new Mental Health Committee, and former Baltimorean Susan Weintraub-Leibtag who serves as Operations Manager of Donations.
Knesset guests traveled from around the country to attend, including Galia Berry, from Moreshet in the Galil. With all the problems, complaints and difficulties "איו לי ארץ אחרת" - "Ain Li Eretz Aharat" - "I have no other land" - was a constant theme in the Knesset chamber.