Telfed — the road ahead

President Reuven Rivlin greets Telfed representatives, including Harris Green, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem in August 2018

Telfed’s 70th anniversary year is drawing to an end. 

Telfed staged a number of special events to celebrate this remarkable milestone. These included a meeting with President Reuven Rivlin, a well-attended community picnic and a chronological publication featuring the highlights of Telfed’s illustrious history. 

In addition, Telfed launched the ambitious Telfed History Project. This initiative culminated in the creation of an online digital archive of Telfed’s records and history. This website enables former Southern Africans to share their personal Aliyah stories and their connections to Telfed. This impressive archive includes video interviews and digitised copies of all the Telfed magazines published since 1975. 

And while celebrating these events, Telfed’s leadership continued to ponder its future. Does an annual Aliyah rate of 350 olim from South Africa justify the existence of an organization dedicated to providing quality Klitah services? 

Telfed was initially established to cater to the needs of new immigrants from Southern Africa. In its first three decades, Telfed’s focus was on immigrant absorption. Immigration can be expressed in numbers. Absorption is much more than that.

Absorption is about creating opportunities for new immigrants. It’s about giving them a vision and making them an integral part in the fulfillment of their Zionist dreams. It’s about developing and successfully utilising their skills. It’s about facilitating their integration into society and making them useful citizens.

Helping olim find housing and employment in a new country is fundamental to the absorption process. Adapting to a new environment, learning a new language and providing new immigrants with functioning social and cultural infrastructures, are formidable challenges. Successful immigrant absorption has long been Israel’s prime objective and Telfed’s contribution to achieving this objective amongst olim from Southern African has been crucial. 

Twenty-five thousand former Southern Africans have made their homes in Israel. That’s quite a community. Many of them have made and continue to make significant contributions to Israel’s growing list of impressive successes. 

Telfed’s office is run by a small, dedicated group of professional staff members supported by more than 300 active volunteers.

In its earlier years, Telfed’s financial requirements were financed by the Jewish Agency. Unfortunately, the Jewish Agency is no longer the financial powerhouse it once was. Its priorities have changed. Jewish identity has replaced Aliyah as its main focus. Absorption has been delegated to the government’s Ministry of Absorption. Their focus is on providing generic services to olim from diaspora communities in distress. Assistance to olim from more affluent countries is basic, minimal and impersonal.

And that’s where we come in. Telfed still has a vital role to play in servicing the needs of our community and those South Africans who have yet to make their homes in Israel. The demand for these services clearly exists. Telfed’s volunteers argue that the organisation’s best-kept secret is the work it does to enhance the communal quality of our lives. 

Telfed’s job is far from done. Our future is still way ahead of us. Somewhere over the rainbow.

To visit the Telfed website, click here

To read the June issue of the Chronicle online, click here
To read about Martin Margolius’ leap off Signal Hill, click here
To read about singing sensation Josh Abrams, click here
To find out more about the Winter Warmer Campaign, click here


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