Zionist Leader Says War Highlighted Apathy of Most Jewish Youth

Mordechai Bar-On, head of the World Zionist Organization’s Youth and Halutz Department, said here the Yom Kippur War had revealed the apathy of the majority of Jewish youth abroad to Israel and their own Jewishness. At the same time, he stated, it had heightened the feeling of identity of the minority which had previously felt identified with Israel and their Jewishness–and it had heightened the hostility of another minority which had been previously hostile to Israel and Zionism.

Bar-On gave this appraisal of the war’s effect on Jewish youth at a press conference here where he discussed the work of his department. Until now, most Zionist leaders have spoken in glowing terms of Jewish youths around the world rallying around Israel in Oct. Bar-On revealed that during the emergency period some 50,000 persons of all ages and all types had made some sort of offer by phone or in person to Israeli Embassies or Jewish Agency offices to come to Israel and help. Only 15,000 had actually filled out volunteer application forms, and 6000 had actually come as volunteers for three-or six month periods.

The 6000 figure included those who came on their own and those who came through the WZO Bar-On said. He recalled that the WZO had done careful screening to keep out undesirables and had stipulated that all would-be volunteers must pay their own fares (though not of course their board in Israel)–and this had discouraged drifters. The result was that the 6000 who had come had been a boon to the kibbutzim, moshavim and factories where they had worked and Bar-On was very satisfied with them. He noted that 4000 of them were still in the country.

PLANS TO AID OLIM, STUDENTS

As an example of their usefulness he cited the case of 80 South African volunteers who had literally saved the young Negev moshavim of Hatzeva and Ein Yahav from economic disaster. The winter crops had to be tended and practically all the men had been mobilized. The volunteers had saved the day, Bar-On reported; The Youth, and Halutz Department was now preparing plans for semester-long programs for volunteers who would spend six or seven months here working, learning Hebrew, hearing lectures and seminars and seeing the country, he said.

Another department plan envisaged two-year “working groups” intended for would-be olim from the West who wished to try out Israel “in depth” before making their final decision to settle. People of similar backgrounds and interests would be organized into groups and would be helped to work together in agriculture or industry. in kibbutzim, moshavim or villages as they preferred, enjoying the department’s help and support for up to two years.

Bar-On outlined two more plans of his department: Bringing to Israel for 10-day refresher tours Jewish youths and student leaders who had made their marks as leaders in campuses and movements and had not been to Israel since Yom Kippur. Bar-On said it was important for them to see the post-war reality here now; “Zionist Training for Israeli Youth”–the department is running four-day lecture and discussion courses for Israeli 12th graders to bolster their Zionist awareness and ideological identity before they are enlisted in the army. In the course of the school year the department hopes to cover all 12th graders.

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