NEW YORK (May. 11)
“Israel is pioneering the solution of one of the most crucial problems of a rapidly changing and shrinking world-how to help the people of backward and underdeveloped countries come across the centuries into the atomic age,” Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt said tonight addressing a United Jewish Appeal dinner at the Hotel Plaza. The dinner, which was sponsored by the American ORT Federation, was one of the highlights of a day in which pledges of $1,860,000 to the UJA in New York were announced at five fund-raising events. The ORT-sponsored dinner brought $750,000.
Discussing her second visit to Israel from which she returned a few weeks ago. Mrs. Roosevelt reported that she was particularly struck by the rapidity with which immigrants from backward areas-from lands where “the ground is still plowed with a crooked stick, “as she put it-are being absorbed into Israel’s highly complex, mechanized economy. She described the development of Beersheba, which was a mud hut village in which a few thousand people lived on the edge of the Negev desert when she first saw it three years ago, into the bustling modern frontier town of more than 20,000 population she saw on this year’s visit.
The labor that built Beersheba, the former First Lady pointed out, was provided largely by immigrants brought to Israel from Yemen, the remote Arab kingdom in Arabia. Practioners of primitive handicrafts in Yemen, they had never seen even the simplest of Western tools or construction techniques before they came to Israel, Yet in the space of three years, they became the carpenters, masons, plumbers and electricians who built by the hundreds the two-room concrete cottages in which they live and the factories and other industrial and commercial establishments in which they work.
American ORT’s president, Dr. William Haber, reported that ORT, which receives a large portion of its funds from the United Jewish Appeal through a working agreement with the Joint Distribution Committee, is already the largest producer of skilled labor in Israel and is now ready to expand its facilities there with a special network of vocational training schools for immigrant youth. Another major area of ORT operations, Dr. Haber said, is North Africa whence 30,000 immigrants are expected to come to Israel this year. Some 20,000 students a year now receive a wide variety of mechanical and technical training in 300 ORT schools and workshops in 19 countries Dr. Haber added.