Knesset Releases $31.5 Million in Frozen Funds for War on Poverty

The Knesset Finance Committee took an important step in the war on poverty today by authorizing the release of $31.5 million in frozen development budget funds to be used mainly to help the poor in Israeli cities and towns and to provide better housing for young couples with large families. The committee recommended further that the government find additional funds to apply toward solving the twin problems of poverty and the shortage of housing. Absorption Minister Nathan Peled addressed himself to those problems in a radio interview and replied to critics who charged discrimination against immigrants of Oriental origin. Peled, a member of Mapam, said all immigrants were entitled to the same assistance and benefits regardless of their countries of origin. He said the size of apartments allocated to newcomers was determined by the size of the families only and by no other criteria. Peled said that most housing aid to immigrants was in the form of mortgages which were repaid to the State after a number of years.

Peled conceded that there were serious social problems in Israel. “The Black Panthers have given expression to a problem that has always existed,” he said, referring to the militant Jerusalem slum youths who have been demonstrating against poverty and squalid living conditions. Peled agreed that social problems deserved high priority and admitted that mistakes have been made in the past such as spending far too much on public buildings while neglecting the housing needs of large families. Police meanwhile are investigating a fire in the Musrara slums last Thursday evening that destroyed a shack used by the Black Panthers for their headquarters. A police spokesman said the investigation was searching for evidence of arson and promised a report “In the next few days.” Angry youths said the fire had destroyed all documents as well as several suits of clothing the Panthers received recently from the United States. Mayor Teddy Kollek was one of the first to arrive at the scene of the blaze Thursday. He said the municipality offered to help repair the damage but that he had not been approached for compensation for the loss of belongings or help in finding the Panthers a new building.

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