JERUSALEM (Sep. 11)
The Inner Zionist Council, also known as the Small Actions Committee, concluded its two-day session here today with an appeal by Levi Eshkol, Israel Finance Minister and head of the Jewish Agency’s settlement department, urging world Jewry to double its current efforts in behalf of settlement in Israel.
Mr. Eshkol emphasized that only such an increased campaign can safeguard the future of the 466 settlements set up since the State of Israel was established. He pointed out that the new settlements–22 were established since the World Zionist Congress met here last April–have provided one-third of the country’s agricultural needs.
The Finance Minister reported that the country would soon be self-sufficient as far as food was concerned. He also spoke of the phenomenal expansion of “industrial” crops including: peanuts for export; cotton in which Israel will shortly be self-sufficient and will thus save $3,000,000 in foreign currency annually, and sugar for which processing plants have been established so Israel will be able to export refined rather than raw sugar.
Dr. Giora Josephtal, Jewish Agency treasurer, reported that cultural and personal reasons were more often responsible than economic conditions for the emigration of Jews from Israel. A recent survey revealed, he said, that 40 percent of the people leaving Israel did not speak Hebrew.
Three-fourths of all the emigrants, Dr. Josephthal disclosed, had come to Israel since the state was established. Twenty percent were pre-1948 immigrants and the remaining five percent were Israel-born. Some 8,000 persons left Israel in 1953, he said, 5,300 in 1954, 3,500 in 1955 and 3,200 in the first half of this year.
Among the reasons they gave for leaving were: to rejoin families abroad, inability to work at former professions, inability to find a place for themselves in Israel society, economic reasons and lack of adequate living quarters. Two-thirds of all emigrants went to the United States, Canada and Australia.
GENERAL DEBATE FOCUSES ATTENTION ON SETTLEMENT PROBLEMS
In the debate which followed Mr. Eshkol’s and Dr. Josephtal’s reports, Poale Zion delegate J. Bankover urged the expansion of Negev settlement as a means of increasing the state’s security. He demanded increased allocations for the Youth Aliyah movement to enable the movement to maintain its wards in the collective settlements. Mr. Bankover asked more money for housing in the kibbutzim in order to attract settlers from the cities.
Mapam member S. Rosen demanded that the standard of living be raised for agricultural families as a means of attracting more people to the soil, and proposed that more irrigation, electric power, schools and cultural facilities be made available to the settlements. He termed inadequate a proposed budget allocation of 75,000,000 pounds for agriculture in the Jewish Agency’s budget and expressed the opinion that concentrating on the collective settlements would be more advantageous for the state than pushing the development of smallholders cooperative settlements.
General Zionist delegates I. Golan and Baruch Weinstein criticized the lack of capital available for new settlers and the fact that settlements were being set up along party lines. Mr. Golan asked that the Agency’s settlement staff be increased so that it could offer more assistance and guidance to new settlers, many of whom had no previous experience on farms.
M. Machhai of the Herut expressed satisfaction that 22 new settlements had come into being since the last Zionist congress and asked increased assistance for settlements located in the hilly areas of the country. He urged that a revolving fund be set up to provide low interest credits for settlers in difficult regions.
HOPE TO OBTAIN AMERICAN LOAN TO EXPAND ISRAEL’S AGRICULTURE
Mapai leader Abraham Hartzfeld expressed the hope that the Israel Government would be able to obtain a loan from the United States Export-Import Bank exclusively for agricultural purposes and asked that such funds be devoted to consolidation of the new settlements. He urged the expansion of the movement by the establishment of 30 to 40 new settlements annually and hoped that world Jewry would understand that this was the best means for absorbing the newcomers.
A. Rafael of the Labor Mizrachi criticized the Jewish Agency’s provision of religious facilities in the new settlements.
During his summation, at the end of the debate, Mr. Eshkol pointed out to the religious delegates that the Agency supplied the settlements with such religious amenities as synagogues, ritual baths and cemeteries, but that the Ministry for Religion was responsible for the maintenance of functionaries in the settlements. He told all the speakers that unless there was a considerable rise in income, there was no possibility of fulfilling even a fraction of the needs outlined by different members of the Actions Committee.