NEW YORK (Jan. 14)
The increased flow of immigration to Israel, which began last year, is expected to continue in 1962, Israel’s Finance Minister, Levi Eshkol, declared last night, addressing 350 Jewish leaders from all parts of the United States and Canada.
Mr. Eshkol spoke at the three-day planning conference of the Israel Bond Organization. Dr. Joseph J. Schwartz, vice-president of the organization, reported that, in 1961, proceeds from bond sales in the United States and other free countries had amounted to $57,214,300. He emphasized that this was the largest amount raised in any single year since the inception of the drive in 1951. It represented an 11 percent increase over the $51,625,350 realized in 1960, and brought the total proceeds from Israel bonds in the past 11 years to $533,497,200, he said.
The Israel Finance Minister reported that approximately $100,000,000 had been spent by the Government of Israel for the construction of housing for immigrants in 1961, and that a total of 20,000 housing units for immigrants would be completed in the year ending March 31, 1962. With more than 60 percent of the newcomers being settled in centers of new development, much of the construction of new housing is taking place in the Negev, he explained.
Mr. Eshkol estimated that, this year, 2,500 new immigrant housing units would be built in Ashdod, the new port town, south of Tel Aviv; 2,500 units in the new town of Dimona, in the northern Negev; 2,500 in Beersheba; 1,500 in Ashkelon; 1,200 in Eilar, on the Gulf of Akaba at the southernmost tip of the Negev; 1,200 in Kiryat Gath; 1,000 in Arad and 700 in Mitzpe Ramon, both new towns in the Negev. The cost of building the new homes is $3,000 for an asbestos unit, and $4,500 for one made of concrete, Mr. Eshkol declared.
Asserting that, with the help of Israel bonds, “we will awaken the Negev from its long sleep of 2,000 years,” the Israel Finance Minister pointed out that “as long as there is an unpopulated Negev, Israel will not be completely secure.” He described the program for the development and settlement of the Negev as “a monumental task that will require a great outpouring of resources of money and manpower, of idealism and know-how, of persistence and courage.” However, he emphasized that the Negev was “where our future lies” in terms of the country’s economic development.
APPEALS TO U. S. JEWRY TO AID SETTLING OF NEW IMMIGRANTS
“Our young people and our new immigrants are ready,” Mr. Eshkol said. “It is up to you to provide the tools–the picks and shovels, the roads, the machinery, the irrigation pipeline and the homes and the villages.” At the same time, he reported that Israel made outstanding economic progress during 1961 with the aid of Israel bonds.
“Our gross national product increased by 11 percent,” he said, “reaching the figure of $2,625,000,000. For the first time in our history our exports passed the $400,000,000 mark, equal to six times the amount of our exports 10 years ago. Industrial exports rose by 19 percent–from $152,500,000 in 1960 to $181,400,000 in 1961. But an increase in imports did not help narrow the gap in our unfavorable trade balance. We also had to wage a strenuous battle against the threat of inflation.
“A very significant aspect of our economic situation last year was that we had practically no unemployment in the country. We are now in that happy position where everybody who can work has a job. If we have a manpower problem, it is a shortage of trained, skilled workers.
“Last year, we also moved closer to complete self-sufficiency in agriculture. In some respects we are like you in the United States. We find ourselves confronted with surpluses in some vegetables and dairy products, chiefly tomatoes and eggs. There are two ways of dealing with the surplus problem. We can order a cutback in production, or we can seek to find markets abroad for the surplus. But it is neither possible nor desirable for us to reduce production.
“The establishment of new agricultural settlements is not only linked to the absorption of immigrants, but has a direct bearing on the security of our frontiers. We cannot expect newcomers to go into border settlements without giving them every opportunity to work the land and sustain themselves by their own labor. Under these circumstances, we have had to place great stress on selling our surplus farm products abroad. Last year we increased our agricultural exports by $6,500,000.”
SENATOR HUMPHREY REPORTS ON VISIT TO ISRAEL AND ARAB LANDS
Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, addressing the gathering, reported on his visit to Israel and the Arab countries. “I visited Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and Israel, and in Israel I found great improvement and progress from four years ago,” he said. “I feel that the exercise of great and prudent diplomacy means that political tensions can and will be eased. The increase in Israel’s strength, economically, politically and militarily, is a factor of stability. This is in our rational interest, and is a contribution to world peace.
“If I were to pick one observation in connection with what has been done for Israel, it would be in terms of what has been done for children–the light of Israel. Where ever I went I saw bright-eyed and healthy children on whom the future of Israel rests.”