Behind the Headlines Hatzor–a Development Town Strives to ‘make It’ with American Help

Here, not far from the border surrounding Golan, where disengagement processes are taking place and as near to both Kiryat Shemona and Maalot–is what is called a development town.

Hatzor escaped the dramatics of the recent Yom Kippur War although the road in the center of the town was zeroed in by the Syrians and two of its kids were killed in Maalot in the aftermath of the war. In the near distance you can see the hills of the Golan. But it all looks suspiciously quiet from afar. In the town itself are two American social workers, Mark and Ruth Sober, who represent the Ministry of Welfare. The town, which has a mayor, has about 6000 people. Its ethnic breakdown is 75 percent North Africans, 20 percent Iraqi and Indian and about five percent Ashkenazi. The Sobers are recent olim, two years in Israel, and face momentous tasks in helping the local structure move forward in its plans.

Industry exists in Hatzor but by categories not size: metal working, diamond cutting, jewelry key punching and fruit canning. All are private but must depend on the sympathetic largesse of governmental loans, all returnable, in order to either begin or function. There is some new housing which have eight apartments to a building and the Sobers live in one. By modern Israeli standards it is sufficient and allowances are made to newcomers. By American standards it would be hard to make the habitation a most invitable one. But the Sobers are young and they are idealistic and they are proud to help this town which has a secular co-ed elementary school. The money for this comes from the United Jewish Appeal. There is what they call a high school but it is really a junior high, helped by an American philanthropist, Henry Everett. It is also co-ed, and in addition to general studies has courses in wood and metal working.

DRUG SCENE TOO

Oddly enough, there is a data processing plant in town which calls for sophisticated labor and second generation immigrant North African girls work on machines for contracts with the government.

An American Community Center exists which has a library, study center and youth club. Hatzor has its youth problems, like any American city. There are about 30 “Beth-Kaf” or kids who either were discharged from the army or not accepted because of unsuitability for health or mental reasons. They and some others are into the drug scene and it was surprising to learn that drugs were easily available, mostly coming from the Lebanese and Syrian border. To counter effect this, street workers, or former addicts and troubled kids work with the delinquents. About 200,000 Israeli Pounds have been assigned for social projects in an effort to integrate these troubled youngsters and about IL 1.2 million are distributed in the town via the UJA.

THE RAINS CAME

Nevertheless, it is difficult to overcome the fact that some families of eight live in one and two rooms and that the average salary of workers is about IL 625 a month. But assistance is given to families in need by the National Insurance. However, the overall struggle to integrate both the people within the town and the country goes on despite the difficulties. Unlike elsewhere, hunger, associated with poverty, does not exist here. Nobody goes hungry.

Legend has it that Choni Hame’agel, termed a saint here, is buried nearby. The same legend says that in a serious drought he demanded rain of God. And when a few sprinkles came, Choni drew a circle and said he would not budge from the circle until rain fell. And then rain fell. The lesson of the tale is persistence and perseverance, and undoubtedly with these characteristics Hatzor will soon pass from the developmental to advanced stage of a community both integrated and making its contributions to Israeli community and culture.

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