Israel (search) is launching a $280 million program aimed at convincing thousands of young Jews to immigrate to Israel in the next five years, officials said Thursday.

The program — targeting people between 18 and 30 — is meant to increase the number of young adults who will eventually immigrate to Israel annually by allowing them to remain here for a year on a tourist visa. During that time, the participants will be offered access to university classes and other programs.

Last year, some 4,000 Jews from this age group immigrated to Israel, said Elan Ezrahi, the official overseeing the program for the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency (search). Next year, the government hopes to attract 8,000 young Jews, with the goal rising to 20,000 by 2009, he said.

The program will partly focus on Russian Jews who did not come to Israel when the Soviet Union collapsed but may have family here and are looking for a stronger link to Judaism and Israel, Ezrahi said.

The Jewish Agency and the Israeli government will offer participants in the program full and partial scholarships, depending on their economic situation, but they will have to purchase their own plane tickets, Ezrahi said.