Lishkat Hakesher

Nativ or officially Lishkat Hakesher or The Liaison Bureau, is an Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

i liaison organization that maintained contact with Jews living in the Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 and encouraged aliyah
Aliyah is the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel . It is a basic tenet of Zionist ideology. The opposite action, emigration from Israel, is referred to as yerida . The return to the Holy Land has been a Jewish aspiration since the Babylonian exile...

, or immigration to Israel.


Founded as part of the Prime Minister's office
Prime Minister of Israel
The Prime Minister of Israel is the head of the Israeli government and the most powerful political figure in Israel . The prime minister is the country's chief executive. The official residence of the prime minister, Beit Rosh Hamemshala is in Jerusalem...

 by Prime Minister Moshe Sharett
Moshe Sharett
Moshe Sharett on 15 October 1894, died 7 July 1965) was the second Prime Minister of Israel , serving for a little under two years between David Ben-Gurion's two terms.-Early life:...

 in 1952-1953, Nativ was designed to function covertly, making contacts, fostering Jewish education
Jewish education
Jewish education is the transmission of the tenets, principles and religious laws of Judaism. Due to its emphasis on Torah study, many have commented that Judaism is characterised by "lifelong learning" that extends to adults as much as it does to children.-History:The tradition of Jewish...

, and aiding immigration to Israel
Aliyah is the immigration of Jews to the Land of Israel . It is a basic tenet of Zionist ideology. The opposite action, emigration from Israel, is referred to as yerida . The return to the Holy Land has been a Jewish aspiration since the Babylonian exile...

. Nativ was not the first organization to do this; Mossad Le'aliyah Bet
Mossad Le'aliyah Bet
The Mossad LeAliyah Bet was a branch of the Haganah in the British Mandate of Palestine that operated to facilitate Jewish immigration to Palestine in violation of unilateral British restrictions. It operated from 1938 until the founding of the State of Israel in 1948...

, part of the Haganah
Haganah was a Jewish paramilitary organization in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine from 1920 to 1948, which later became the core of the Israel Defense Forces.- Origins :...

, had brought Jews to Israel in defiance of the British Mandate, but this ended with the creation of Israel. Nativ was to continue that mission, except now in defiance of the Soviet Union. Although it operated in a clandestine manner, the official policy was never to break Soviet laws. This did not stop the KGB
The KGB was the commonly used acronym for the . It was the national security agency of the Soviet Union from 1954 until 1991, and was the premier internal security, intelligence, and secret police organization during that time.The State Security Agency of the Republic of Belarus currently uses the...

 from suspecting that it was spying, in fact, as recently as 1998 Nativ was accused of conducting espionage operations. Interestingly, a former Israeli ambassador to Moscow claims that the KGB conducted exhaustive surveillance measures on all their operations, but never directly interfered.

Nativ began its foreign operations out of Israeli embassies, yet this ended after the Six-Day War
Six-Day War
The Six-Day War , also known as the June War, 1967 Arab-Israeli War, or Third Arab-Israeli War, was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt , Jordan, and Syria...

, when Russia and fellow Soviet countries severed diplomatic ties with Israel. This led Nativ to focus more of its efforts on Western countries
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

, where it lobbied governments to promote greater emigration freedom in the USSR with the phrase "Let My People Go". While its Soviet operations were stymied, the Refusenik
Refusenik originally referred to citizens of the former Soviet Union who were refused permission to emigrate.Refusenik or refusnik may also refer to:*An Israeli conscientious objector, see Refusal to serve in the Israeli military...

 movement began, bringing greater international attention to the Soviet emigration issue. Nativ assisted the movement by directly by materially supporting the refuseniks and fostering refusenik organizations.

In the mid 1970s international pressure forced the Soviet Union to allow greater emigration, and the number of Soviet Jews leaving for Israel increased dramatically. The dissolution of the Soviet Union
History of the Soviet Union (1985-1991)
The history of the Soviet Union from 1982 through 1991, spans the period from Leonid Brezhnev's death and funeral until the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Due to the years of Soviet military buildup at the expense of domestic development, economic growth stagnated...

 ended the need to conduct operations clandestinely, and today Lishkat Hakesher openly runs Jewish clubs and education services in Russia. It is also tasked with issuing visas and processing immigrants coming to Israel under the Law of Return
Law of Return
The Law of Return is Israeli legislation, passed on 5 July 1950, that gives Jews the right of return and settlement in Israel and gain citizenship...

. However, it has recently faced budget and personnel cuts, immigrant backlogs, and pressure to close from groups including the Mossad
The Mossad , short for HaMossad leModi'in uleTafkidim Meyuchadim , is the national intelligence agency of Israel....

 and Shin Bet. As of November 2006, Nativ had 60 employees and a budget of approximately 11.6 million USD
United States dollar
The United States dollar , also referred to as the American dollar, is the official currency of the United States of America. It is divided into 100 smaller units called cents or pennies....


When Kadima
Kadima is a centrist and liberal political party in Israel. It was established on 24 November 2005 by moderates from Likud largely to support the issue of Ariel Sharon's unilateral disengagement plan, and was soon joined by like-minded Labor politicians...

 formed a coalition government with Yisrael Beiteinu, Nativ was moved from the Prime Minister's Office to the Ministry of Strategic Affairs. In February 2007, Avigdor Liberman, the Minister of Strategic Affairs and a Russian emigre, proposed that Lishkat Hakesher move into new operations among Russian Jews who emigrated to the United States, Canada, and Germany. Under Liberman's leadership, Nativ's Operation Germany attempted to convince ethnic Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union to emigrate from Germany to Israel. However, with his resignation in January 2008, plans of placing two Nativ employees in Germany are not likely to be carried out.


As of 2005, the only requirements to lead Lishkat Hakesher were the ability to speak Russian
Russian language
Russian is a Slavic language used primarily in Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine, Moldova, Latvia, Turkmenistan and Estonia and, to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics...

 and experience in managing bureaucracies. Headquartered in Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv
Tel Aviv , officially Tel Aviv-Yafo , is the second most populous city in Israel, with a population of 404,400 on a land area of . The city is located on the Israeli Mediterranean coastline in west-central Israel. It is the largest and most populous city in the metropolitan area of Gush Dan, with...

, the director reports directly to the prime minister. All Nativ representatives in foreign countries report to the director, and are not responsible to the local diplomats. Representatives are supposed to inform the local ambassador of their activities, though failure to do this has caused tension in the past.

The prime minister has the power to directly appoint a new head, although in the last succession Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon
Ariel Sharon is an Israeli statesman and retired general, who served as Israel’s 11th Prime Minister. He has been in a permanent vegetative state since suffering a stroke on 4 January 2006....

 created a special committee, chaired by Secretary Yisrael Maimon
Yisrael Maimon
Israel Maimon is a lawyer and former Cabinet Secretary of Israel.Maimon graduated from Blich High School in Ramat Hen, Ramat Gan. In 1984, he became a member of the Golani Brigade, before attaining the rank of Company Commander at the school for Section Commanders...

, to recommend a replacement. The committee continued searching for a candidate under newly elected Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert
Ehud Olmert is an Israeli politician and lawyer. He served as Prime Minister of Israel from 2006 to 2009, as a Cabinet Minister from 1988 to 1992 and from 2003 to 2006, and as Mayor of Jerusalem from 1993 to 2003....

, finally selecting Naomi Ben-Ami
Naomi Ben-Ami
Naomi Ben-Ami is an Israeli government official and the head of the liaison bureau Lishkat Hakesher, also known as Nativ. Ben-Ami is the first woman to head the organization.-Biography:...

, the Israeli ambassador to Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...


List of leaders

  • Shaul Avigur
    Shaul Avigur
    Shaul Avigur was a founder of the Israeli Intelligence Community.-Biography:Avigur was born in Dvinsk under the name Saul Meyeroff , but when his son Gur Meyeroff was killed in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, he changed it to Avigur, meaning "Father of Gur"...

  • Nehemiah Levanon 1970-1980
  • Yehuda Lapidot
    Yehuda Lapidot
    Yehuda "Nimrod" Lapidot is an Israeli historian and former professor of biochemistry. Lapidot was a member of the Irgun and an officer in the Israel Defense Forces. In 1980 he was appointed head of Lishkat Hakesher by former Irgun commander and then Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Lapidot...

  • David Bar-Tov
    David Bar-Tov
    David Bar-Tov was the head of Lishkat Hakesher from 1986 to 1992 and an Israeli judge.-References:...

  • Yaakov Kedmi 1992-1999
  • Zvi Magen
    Zvi Magen
    Zvi Magen was a colonel in Aman research division, Deputy head of Nativ, Israeli ambassador to Ukraine in 1993, ambassador to Russia in 1998, and Head of Nativ from 1999 to 2005. Magen wished to retire from his post during the Sharon government, but was convinced to stay until a replacement was...

  • Naomi Ben-Ami
    Naomi Ben-Ami
    Naomi Ben-Ami is an Israeli government official and the head of the liaison bureau Lishkat Hakesher, also known as Nativ. Ben-Ami is the first woman to head the organization.-Biography:...


External links

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