NEW YORK (Dec. 14)
In a bid for increased aliya from the United States, Uzi Narkiss, director of the Israel Aliya Department of the World Zionist Organization, outlined a number of concrete proposals to the inaugural meeting here of the National Aliya Council. More than 120 Jewish leaders representing regional aliya councils from across the country and national Jewish organizations attended the all-day conference today under the auspices of the WZO-American Section to deal with absorption problems, making known available job openings in Israel and strengthening aliya centers in this country.
Two innovative approaches, introduced by Narkiss, were part of a lively discussion. One, he explained, was “a people-to-people campaign in which communities in the United States select a kibbutz, moshav, hospital or development community in Israel and take as their responsibility recruitment and shipping of volunteers. A mechanism will be set up to effect a flow of ideas and cooperation between the ‘twin communities.’”
Another proposal was “a project to be developed and promoted by all the United States. Our gem: Jerusalem,” Narkiss said. “We propose that the American Jewish community declare the populating of Jerusalem as a major target goal.”
In discussing the problems of aliya and absorption Narkiss did not minimize the difficulties involved. But he also asserted that solutions have been inaugurated. “The main identifiable problems of absorption are housing, employment, social integration and culture shock,” he said. “Steps are being taken to improve these areas of concern, and, what is perhaps more important, increased American aliya will create a new atmosphere of progressiveness in Israel: a new willingness not only to discuss but to effect change.
SOLUTION TO HOUSING PROBLEM NOTED
In housing, for example, “a change took place in order to solve a critical problem of absorption,” Narkiss reported. “Among American olim more than 50 percent are between the ages of 18 and 29, and many are single. A major construction project currently underway to help solve this problem will result in the availability, for the first time, of 4500 efficiency apartments for single olim–a significant departure from the old line of thinking.” He credited Charlotte Jacobson, chairman of the NAC and chairman of the Executive of the WZO-American Section, for initiating this change.
Focussing on the subject of employment, he conceded that “what you have read in the newspapers is true. There is unemployment in Israel.” However, Narkis continued, “What you do not read is the fact that there are thousands of jobs, meaningful positions, that remain vacant because they are ‘blue collar’ and middle management jobs.” Israel, he observed, has an overabundance of doctors, lawyers and teachers and not enough middle management and blue collar olim. To better communicate about jobs, Narkiss said a program will be introduced in cooperation with the Israel Manufacturers Association through which up-to-date listing of openings will be available.
In addition, there must be better communication between Israel and potential olim regarding the opportunities which exist for new arrivals. Narkiss said. He noted that the working group on aliya at the Jerusalem conference on Jewish solidarity which took place two weeks ago “called on all Jews, organizations, communities and individuals to share the responsibility of aliya by taking upon themselves the obligation for promotion and implementation.”
VOLUNTEER PROJECTS OUTLINED
The first plan was for “all Jewish communities to consider 1976 as a year of commitment to volunteer projects in Israel,” Narkiss said. This involves the people-to-people campaign. One example of this approach involves Garin Shaam, a group formed this year of former volunteers, which is planning aliya to two development towns in the Northern Galilee: Kiryat Shemona and Safed. Another example is the undertaking by Kibbutz Gezer, a kibbutz comprised of young American olim, to send one of their members. David Twersky, to Philadelphia campuses at the end of January for a concentrated six-week pilot program to recruit volunteers and members for the kibbutz.
Narkiss conceded that these suggestions “are complicated to implement.” But; he added, “it is equally true” that “not all Jews are involved with these problems. Much gifted talent goes untapped. We leave it to you, the leaders of American Jewry, to find the ways and means of giving life to these objectives.”
Other speakers at the conference included Israeli Defense Minister Shimon Peres; Rabbi Herschel Schacter, chairman, aliya committee, American Zionist Federation; Yehiel Leket, director, Israel Aliya Center in North American; and Mrs. Jacobson.