1989 witnessed a drastic improvement in the situation of Soviet Jews. In the course of that year Judaic studies centers were opened in Moscow, Jewish Agency emissaries were permitted to teach Hebrew and there was a growth in the number of Jews seeking to emigrate to Israel. In order to stem the drop-out phenomena, in which Soviet Jews holding Israeli visas, dropped off in Vienna and opted to emigrate to the United States, Israel reached an agreement with the United States and the USSR. The U.S. limited Jewish immigration to its shores to 40,000 a year and required would be immigrants to obtain American visas in Moscow. The Soviet government agreed to the procedure that only those who have valid visas to the country to which they were proceeding would be allowed out. This agreement came into effect in October 1989, Israel braced itself to dealing with a tidal wave of Russian immigrants, 100,000 of whom were expected in 1990 (as opposed to few thousands in 1989). In preparation for that event, the government and the Jewish Agency reached the following agreement on their absorption, bearing in mind the "historic moment." Text:
1. In expectation of mass immigration from the Soviet Union, the Government of Israel has declared that it will absorb every Jew who wishes to emigrate to Israel, and together with world Jewry, will allocate the necessary resources so that absorption will be efficient and successful.
2. The Government of Israel and the Jews of the Diaspora are aware that this is an historic moment, in which access has been regained to the Jews of the Soviet Union, who for many years were cut off from the rest of the Jewish world, and that everything possible must be done to absorb them successfully in Israel.
3. A program has been prepared for the absorption of 100,000 immigrants from the Soviet Union in a period of three fiscal years, beginning with the 1990-91 fiscal year until the 1992-93 fiscal year. The central points in the program and their costs are:
A. Construction of 25,000 new housing units and renovation of 5,000 public housing units at a net cost of about $1 billion. The initial capital outlay is double this amount, about $2 billion.
B. Construction of additional classrooms and their operation to serve these immigrants, at a cost of $135 million.
C. Vocational training and retraining for immigrants in the vocations for which there is demand in the Israeli economy, and creation of new jobs, at a cost of $400 million.
D. Direct absorption at an estimated cost of $240 million. According to the existing agreement, the cost of direct absorption is shared equally between the Government and the Jewish Agency. This agreement is in effect until April, 1990.
E. Transportation of immigrants to Israel, along with their baggage, at a cost of $140 million.
F. Absorption in absorption centers in the first year, at a cost of $120 million.
G. Total cost of the program: $2,035 million.
4. A. The cost of items presented in articles E and F listed above, and an additional one half of the cost of direct absorption, are to be covered in full by the Jewish Agency for the absorption of 100,000 immigrants from the USSR, in addition to the $120 million which has already been allocated for the absorption of immigrants from other countries. (Total additional cost to JAFI: $380 million.)
B. The cost of articles A, B and C listed above, amounting to a total of about $1,530,000, and the cost of half of the total cost of direct absorption, form part of the cost to the Government of the absorption of 100,000 immigrants from the USSR. In addition to this amount, the Government will expend about $100 million for primary absorption of these immigrants and an additional approximately $50 million for the absorption of immigrants from other countries.
5. The assistance of the Jewish people through the Jewish Agency is requested in the funding of programs in the amount of $500 million over five years. In addition, the Government of Israel will raise at least an additional $500 million toward funding of the program from outside sources.
6. The Government of Israel would be happy to receive the assistance of the Jews of the Diaspora in examining methods of financing housing construction and construction technology in Israel, in order to propose means of easing funding and improving the technology.
7. The Government of Israel is committed to implement the housing construction program and to prepare a suitable. framework for vocational training and retraining for new immigrants, beginning in the 1989-90 fiscal year.
8. Absorption of immigrants is to take place through two major routes:
A. Through direct absorption, which is to be the principal route under the authority of the Ministry of Absorption.
B. Through existing absorption centers, where among other immigrants, the population which requires social services will be absorbed.
9. Everything necessary will be done to improve the direct absorption route in order to give the immigrant the sense of being guided by absorption agents from the moment that he arrives in Israel until the end of his first year in the country, when he is settled in an apartment and a job.
10. The Government of Israel, together with the Jewish Agency, win take the necessary steps to insure that immigrants will not remain in absorption centers for periods longer than six months, with the exception of immigrants from Ethiopia.
11. The Government will encourage absorption of new immigrants by the direct absorption route through the local authorities.
12. A joint Ministry of Absorption/JAFI Committee will investigate means for increasing cooperation between the two entities.
13. A representative of the Ministry of Absorption will participate in the process of establishing prior arrangements for immigrants who are referred to absorption centers. A representative of JAR will be a member of the Ministry of Absorption committee for allocation of public housing to immigrants in absorption centers.
14. The Government regards the improvement of absorption processes as a national commitment, and will work toward the implementation of the agreement of 22.11.88 in its totality.
15. The Jewish Agency has accepted the Government of Israel's request to hold a special campaign, and to allocate half of this campaign to the funding of expenses for housing and employment programs which have been accepted by the Jewish Agency, and half to cover the portion of additional expenses in transportation and absorption of immigrants incurred by the Jewish Agency. The Jewish Agency win recommend to the United Jewish Appeal and Keren Hayesod that they conduct this campaign according to the above program.