TEL AVIV (Oct. 21)
The 80-member study mission of the United Jewish Appeal, which is now visiting Israel, was given today an inside picture of the problems faced by the Jewish State. Finance Minister Levi Eshkol reported that because of the pressure of security expenditures, the government has been unable to build as much housing as was needed for the stepped-up immigration of the past year. As a result, he stressed, 15,000 of the 50,000 newcomers who arrived in the last 12 months may have to spend the winter in huts.
Mr. Eshkol praised the role of the UJA, without whose assistance, he noted, there would not now be the 50,000 additional Jews who came to Israel last year. He noted the heavy economic sacrifices assumed by the Israel community to pay for both defensive arms and its share of immigrant expenses. A special immigration tax assumed by the Israel people last year brought in 20,000,000 pounds, he reported. At the same time, the Finance Minister noted, the government had spent three times that sum on civilian defense preparations alone.
Foreign Minister Golda Meir, who also met with the mission members, reiterated the Israel Government position that Israel is free to act as it sees fit in the event Iraqi troops enter Jordan and the armistice agreement is thus undermined. Mrs. Meir declared that any general formula which settles the current Suez Canal dispute without guaranteeing Israel’s freedom of passage through the channel is unacceptable. She noted that Israel was the only nation whose shipping and cargoes were refused passage by the Egyptians.
Discussing the government’s policy of retaliation for the murder of Israeli citizens, Mrs. Meir said that Israel–unlike the Arab states–would never permit its citizens to attack defenseless Arab citizens. Israel’s reprisal actions, she pointed out, were taken against army and police installations. During the Qualqilya raid, she revealed, a number of Israeli casualties were suffered while the Israeli troops searched every room in the police fortress to assure that civilians were cleared out before the building was blown up.
Speaking for the 80 Americans, William Rosenwald, UJA general chairman and leader of the group, said that the Americans felt “humble” to be in Israel “where once again parents, wives and children were mourning for their loved ones.” He noted that last year’s study mission to Israel had pledged American Jewry to “match courage with courage and giving” with the Israeli community.
“We are proud that what we have done has helped,” Mr. Rosenwald continued, “but we are not presuming to believe that our response can be measured against you.” The UJA leader told the Israelis that the American Jews had come to “walk in the fields you have rescued from the desert and to see the new villages filled with people who only some months ago were snatched from a like peril and despair.”
At an informal dinner for the mission members, Dr. Joseph Burg, Minister for Posts, brought the Israel Government’s greetings and Zalman Shazar extended greetings in the name of the Jewish Agency, while Abraham Harman, a member of the Agency executive, discussed immigration and absorption problems. Later, the American group went to Rehovoth and placed a wreath on the grave of the late Dr. Chaim Weizmann.