JERUSALEM (Aug. 29)
Premier Levi Eshkol yesterday urged a delegation of B’nai Israel settlers from India to be patient on the issue of their claims of discrimination in matters of marriage and not to force the issue. After the meeting, the delegation said the Premier’s statement was not acceptable and that they intended to continue their struggle.
The Premier met with the B’nai Israelites in accordance with a pledge made to them last week in return for which some 25 families ended a month-long squatters strike outside the offices of the Jewish Agency. The families had pitched tents there and remained in them for the month as a protest against rabbinical directives requiring special examination of their Jewish backgrounds by marriage registrars before issuing marriage licenses.
The Premier told the delegation that B’nai Israel settlers were not regarded as second-class citizens. Expressing “complete understanding” of their feelings, the Premier said that the problem did not originate in Israel but arose as a result of the differing background of various communities in other countries. He urged them not to undertake action likely to “split the nation” by forcing the issue.
The strikers had demanded cancellation of the rabbinical directives or repatriation to India. They contended that investigation of their family histories when members applied for marriage to Jews from other communities was tantamount to apartheid, a reference to the separation of colored peoples in South Africa.
Following the meeting with the Premier, the families said they could continue their fight until the directives were canceled and intimated they would raise the issue again when Parliament is reconvened in October.