JERUSALEM (Apr. 26)
The apathy and disinterest which is said to prevail among Jewish students around the world in their attitudes toward Zionism and Judaism was nowhere in evidence among several hundred of them who assembled in Jerusalem recently, for a four-day seminar on Israel and Zionism.
Student apathy and disinterest were, indeed, one of the themes of the seminar. Participants debated how to arouse their friends on campuses how to infuse them with something of the same spirit of Jewish patriotism that fires their own interest and commitment. At the same time, the seminar was a unique opportunity for these young student activists to replenish their own spiritual batteries. For many, it was also their first opportunity to see Israel.
The seminar was organized jointly by a number of Zionist and student bodies, chief among them the Youth and Halutz Department of the World Zionist Organization and the Zionist Council of Israel, a WZO-affiliated body which conducts programs in Zionism at schools and universities all over Israel.
OVERWHELMING SUCCESS REPORTED
Zionist Council Chairman Arye Zimouki, who is a “Yediot Achronot” political reporter and one of Israel’s best-known journalists, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the seminar organizers themselves had been overwhelmed by the success of their venture. “Right up to the last moment.” revealed. “there were those among us who urged its cancellation. Frankly we feared the Israeli participants we had invited would simply fail to show up.”
Zimouki and the other organizers, among them Mordechai Bar-On, the Youth and Halutz Department head, and Uri Gordon, chairman of the “young guard” section of the WZO, had arranged for 150 young people to attend from overseas, and a similar number from Israel. Of the overseas participants, 95 came especially for the seminar: the others were already in Israel working with volunteer programs.
More than double the expected number of Israelis came and stayed throughout the seminar, which was held at the Youth and Halutz Department center in Jerusalem’s southern suburbs. The Israelis included young army officers, yeshiva students, nearly 100 student leaders from all the country’s universities, 20 young kibbutzniks, 20 young leaders from development towns, young Histadrut officials and members of the Reform synagogue movement in Israel.
In the overseas contingent. World Union of Jewish Students leaders were prominent, but there were also Jewish youngsters who had not hitherto taken leadership roles in the international Jewish students affairs. The preference, Zimouki said, was for people who had not visited Israel before.
HIGH INTELLECTUAL. POLITICAL CONTENT
The program left almost no time for leisure, or for informal discussions among the students themselves and Zimouki admitted later that this had perhaps been unfortunate. On the other hand, the four-day schedule was crammed with intellectual and political interest, featuring speakers of the highest caliber.
Among government leaders who addressed the seminar was Premier Yitzhak Rabin. Other speaker included Yosef Almogi. WZO chairman Leon Dulzin. WZO treasurer, university professor, noted authors, intellectuals and rabbis, including Meir Kahane. Bar-On, Zimouki and other activists concentrated on practical proposals to intensify Zionist efforts on overseas university campuses.
The atmosphere at the student seminar was graphically illustrated one morning, when Mapam veteran leader Yaacov Hazan and Herut veteran leader Menachem Beigin were scheduled to debate politics and ideology. Because of a major traffic snarl in Tel Aviv. Hazan who was due to appear first, was more than an hour late. No one left the auditorium, however. The students waited patiently for the speakers arrival, meanwhile engaging in their own orderly and intellectually stimulating debate on Israeli politics and peace maps.
When Hazan finally appeared, he was heard with rapt attention, Beigin followed him to the rostrum and the discussion which their two presentations engendered went on until well past lunch time. It was only at 2:30 p.m. five hours after the morning’s program had begun, that Zimouki was able to prevail upon the students to break off for lunch.
FOUR-POINT PLAN DRAFTED
Despite the intense interest and disparate feelings in regard to Israeli political problems, the seminar participants were all able to support a closing resolution, formulated in the spirit of the 1968 “Jerusalem program. The ideological platform of the World Zionist Movement which stresses the “centrality” of Israel in Jewish life.
On a practical level, the seminar resolved to set up a 12-member follow-up committee of six Israelis and six diaspora members. Its task will be to plan: methods of fighting anti-Zionism on campuses; projects for joint Israeli-diaspora settlement groups in Israel; projects for joint Israeli diaspora volunteer schemes in Israel; projects for joint Israeli-diaspora student communes in depressed suburbs of Israeli cities.
It is with such practical schemes. Zimouki said, that the student activists hope to encourage Jewish youngsters around the world to intensify and express their commitment to Israel.