NETANYA (Dec. 18)
The 13th national conference of the Association of Immigrants from Latin American Countries opened here last night. Premier Yitzhak Rabin addressed the gathering on the importance of aliya and said Israel had the strength to overcome all of its trials despite the current economic difficulties. But the main concern of the meeting was the dramatic decline in aliya from Latin American countries–only 1500 this year compared to 3000 in 1974 and 4500 in 1973.
Rafael Seroussi, chairman of the Association, suggested some reasons why Latin American aliya was drying up despite a deteriorating political and economic situation for Jews in many South American countries. He said the economic and security situation in Israel was a major deterrent and another negative factor was the alienation of Latin American Jews from their Jewish identity and hence from Zionism.
Seroussi also blamed the lack of coordination between the government’s Absorption Ministry and the Jewish Agency which creates a situation in which one authority is often unaware of the promises made to olim by the other. He said the blame also had to be shared by the Zionist leadership which has mistaken notions about conditions in Latin America. He also cited harassment of olim by the Israeli bureaucracy as contributing to the decline in aliya.
The Conference is calling for the establishment of a single autonomous authority to handle immigration and absorption. It is also demanding a public investigation into the Housing Ministry’s failure to provide immigrants with the flats promised them. (By Yitzhak Shargil)