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Locker Defends Youth Aliyah Against ‘baseless’ Charges

Allegations that North African Jewish children from religious homes had been placed in non-religious settlements, institutions and schools in Israel by Youth Aliyah were categorically denied by Berl Locker, co-chairman of the Jewish Agency executive, in a statement made public here today. He described the allegations as “baseless and of questionable origin” and attributed responsibility for most of the charges to a Mr. Elmaleh, a North African communal worker.

Mr. Locker declared that “Youth Aliyah’s challenge to those making the allegation to cite the case of a single child from a religious home placed in a non-religious settlement has remained unanswered.” He said it was “true, of course, that some people insist that all children receive a particular type of religious education. However, their parents are the best judges, and we have at no time placed or kept a child in-any institution contrary to the wishes of its parents.”

He declared that Mr. Elmaleh’s charges have been “unqualifiedly repudiated by the Committee for Religious Youth Aliyah of the World Mizrachi and Hapoel Hamizrachi organizations” and noted that there has been “from the very beginning, a close working relationship between this committee and the Youth Aliyah although the Committee has raised questions about youth institutions labeled as ‘traditional’ and has insisted that all children be placed in institutions labeled as ‘religious’.”

Mr. Locker drew attention to a statement by this Committee pointing out that its differences with Youth Aliyah do not provide any justification “for the campaign conducted in some quarters against Youth Aliyah, their resort to malicious rumors and libelous allegations that can only cause harm to Israel and the Zionist movement and undermine Youth Aliyah, an organization that is making it possible for thousands of religious children and adolescents to be brought up in a spirit of Torah and Labor.”

Mr. Locker quoted a statement by Moshe Kol, member of the Jewish Agency executive in charge of Youth Aliyah, noting that North African religious personalities have visited Israel and found no cause to criticize any of the institutions in which children from religious homes were placed. Mr. Kol reported that Mr. Elmaleh had been invited to cite cases, but “months have passed and Mr. Elmaleh has produced no evidence to support his allegations.”

Reports that difficulties had been encountered in enrolling immigrant children into religious educational institutions were described as “wholly baseless by Prof. Ben Zion Dinur, Israel Minister for Education and Culture. He pointed out that “the fact that only eight complaints were filed and only three were judged to satisfy re-enrolment in a registration involving more than 1,000 schools in 850 settlements, shows persuasively how little truth there is in the irresponsible allegations.”

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