JERUSALEM (Jun. 16)
Pinhas Sapir, chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive, said tonight that Israel would have to have a Jewish population of at least six million, before it could have peace and security. The present population is three million, and at the present rate of natural increase it will take 25 years to double it, which means that every effort must be made to increase aliya, Sapir said in the course of his keynote address opening the fourth annual Assembly of the Jewish Agency here.
The opening session was attended by President Ephraim Katzir of Israel, Jerusalem’s Mayor Teddy Kollek, Max Fisher of Detroit, chairman of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors and Ezra Shapiro, world chairman of Keren Hayesod. The Assembly has drawn more than 300 Jewish leaders from all over the world who, for the next four days, will be grappling with such problems as the decline in aliya, immigrant absorption, Jewish education in the diaspora, the Arab boycott and the social and economic gap in Israel’s society. Most important, the Assembly will have to approve the Jewish Agency’s $500 million budget for the next fiscal year which is based on an estimate of 45,000 new immigrants arriving in the country.
That number may not be achieved, Sapir noted in his address that only 32,000 immigrants came to Israel in 1974 compared to 55,000 in 1973. He said that the 7400 olim who arrived during the first five months of 1975 comprised “about half of what it was in the same period last year.” Sapir attributed the sharp decline in immigration in part to the harassment and persecution of Jews in the Soviet Union who seek exit visas. He said he wanted to assure them that the campaign for their freedom was continuing in Israel and in Jewish communities throughout the world. He praised the contributions of the 100,000 Soviet Jews already in Israel.
CITES ABSORPTION PROBLEMS
Sapir said that while the immigrant housing problem was practically solved, there were still many problems ahead, notably in the area of social absorption. He told the delegates that they must devote special attention to organizing aliya as special projects of their home communities rather than as an initiative from outside.
Sapir spoke at length about the unique contribution of special funds, such as the Israel education fund for the improvement of the quality of life in Israel and urged the delegates to help meet Israel’s educational needs, especially pre-kindergarten, high school and neighborhood centers.
The Jewish Agency chairman had warm praise for the settlement projects accomplished by the Agency’s settlement department which he described as “one of the shining jewels in the crown of Jewish Agency achievements.” He said he would present to the Assembly detailed plans for new settlements in Galiies and in the Araya district.
REVISIONISTS ATTACK SAPIR
The general display of unity within Zionist ranks was marred by an attack on Sapir emanating from the Revisionist (Herut) wing of the World Zionist movement. Several hours before the Assembly opened, the Revisionists held a press conference in Tel Aviv at which the faction’s chairman, Rafael Kolowitz, blamed Sapir personally for the decline in aliya and demanded his ouster. The attack brought swift and angry rebuttals from Max Fisher and Jewish Agency treasurer Leon Dulzin.
Fisher expressed full confidence in Sapir, calling him the “one person who has done more than anyone else for the development of the country and for the improvement of its absorption capacity.” Dulzin said the attempt to blame Sapir for declining aliya was “immoral.”
The Jewish Agency Assembly will be followed next week by a meeting of the World Zionist Executive of which Sapir is also chairman. It will be attended, among others, by Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Jewish Congress; Mrs. Charlotte Jacobson, chairman of the WZO American Section; and David Blumberg, chairman of B’nai B’rith. The Executive is expected to discuss means to counter the Arab boycott against Israel.