Founded to provide comfort and aid to Jews escaping pogroms in Eastern Europe, HIAS has always had a special relationship with Israel. Even before the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, HIAS was engaged with helping Jews to immigrate to Palestine from as early as 1927. HIAS established its office in Israel in 1950 to assist the large waves of olim in their arrival, absorption, and integration into Israeli society.
Today, now that the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency have assumed full responsibility for immigration and absorption of olim, HIAS is using our expertise to help the country develop a humane admission system for refugees and asylum seekers that adheres to international legal standards and protects the security of the state. According to UNHCR, there are 55,000 refugees in Israel: roughly 36,000 from Eritrea, 15,000 from Sudan, and 4,000 from other African countries.
Scholarships for Olim in Israel
For more than three decades, the HIAS Scholarship Program has awarded funds for higher education tuition to student olim based on academic achievement, financial need, and community service.
Legal Education – Refugees in Israel
In 2001, HIAS established the first-ever refugee law course in Israel and in 2003, we co-formed the first Israeli refugee law clinic. Established at Tel Aviv University’s Buchman Law Faculty, the clinic is the premier institution of refugee law, knowledge, and expertise in Israel.
Legal Expertise – Refugees in Israel
As the State of Israel sought a response to the influx of more than 50,000 migrants seeking refuge from conflict zones, HIAS was at the forefront of training asylum officers in RSD (Refugee Status Determination) and lawyers in refugee law so that they can help asylum seekers find protection and realize their right to due process. Today, HIAS is leading a pro bono legal representation program for asylum seekers in Israel.
Assistance to Individual Refugees in Israel
HIAS meets with individuals and families (mostly from Eritrea and Sudan) to help them evaluate options for reuniting with family in other countries, including the United States, Canada, Italy, Australia, Switzerland, and Sweden.
In 2014, HIAS launched a program to train and mentor young Israel professionals in the legal field who recognize the plight of asylum seekers in Israel and wish to do their part by providing pro bono legal representation. Although pro bono legal work is still an emerging concept in Israel, the one-on-one mentorship we provide in this highly specialized area of law has enabled HIAS’ program to succeed where other attempts have failed. Many of our “Rukin Fellows”, named in memory of HIAS’ former Board Chair, have already begun to represent asylum seekers, and have had legal victories for their clients. (Click here to read about the program in Hebrew.)