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Israel Can Double Its Population in ‘foreseeable Future,’ Sharett Says

Israel can double its present population of 2,000,000 “in the foreseeable future” but a great effort will be required to do this while maintaining the present standard of living and the services of the welfare state, Moshe Sharett, chairman of the Jewish Agency executive, declared here last night.

Jewish positions, he said, are being demolished in many countries, though the upheaval which demolishes them is not necessarily designed to be anti-Jewish, Jews suffer nevertheless and move on when conditions become hazardous, he stated. He spoke at a reception given in his honor.

In the case of Russia, Mr. Sharett said, the Soviet regime was not intrinsically anti-Jewish, yet Soviet Jews were threatened in their existence as Jews because they were denied means for a spiritual life. Without any spiritual life as Jews, Jewish survival was impossible, he stressed. That, he said, was why many of the Soviet Jews were trying to get out, although economically, they were neither starving nor unemployed.

“For all those Jews who must move on or want to move on, the question of ‘whether’ does not arise any more–that question has been removed from the stage of Jewish history, “he said. “They go to Israel, and Israel must care for them and absorb them. We can double the population of Israel in the foreseeable future, but it requires a gigantic effort to enlarge and expand the basis of our economy.”

The former Prime Minister of Israel said that he had been pondering the question of what kind of a society “are we going to share in Israel? What do Israelis think? How do they see the world and themselves?” He said that what Israelis think today will influence future generations as well as newcomers to the country.

The problem, he said, was that the Government was always absorbed in immediate tasks and members of the Government “seem to have no time to pause in their continuous harassing movement from problem to problem, and devote time and attention to this perhaps most important issue.” However, he stressed, “we cannot shirk it and we must go very carefully about solving it because any harm done now will be terribly difficult to undo in the future.”

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