JERUSALEM (May. 3)
A three-man committee sent here by the Zionist Organization of Canada to investigate the problems of Canadian olim concluded a week of hearings last night. While most of the immigrants appearing before the panel spoke of difficulties they encountered with bureaucratic red tape, they stressed the positive aspects of life in Israel and made it clear that they had no thoughts of returning to Canada.
Gerald N.F. Charness, of Montreal, chairman of the committee, said last night that the body was formed to pin-point certain problems and find solutions, not to heap criticism on Israeli authorities. The hearings were boycotted by the Jewish Agency which had been invited to participate or to send observers with “special status.”
Yosel Almogi, chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive, told newsmen yesterday that the invitation was rejected because the ZOC is a political organization and not representative of the Canadian Zionist Federation. However, almost all immigrant federations and Zionist groups in Israel sent observers to the hearings. They were also attended by a representative of the recently formed government-Jewish Agency joint-committee on immigration and absorption problems headed by Amos Horev, president of the Haifa Technion.
At the outset of the hearings, Charness explained that the ZOC decided to establish the committee following its 41st annual convention In Jerusalem last year during which many Canadian olim asked for help from Canadian Jewry in overcoming their problems here. He said the inquiry was also prompted by a statistical survey which showed that 40 percent of Canadian olim returned to Canada within five years of their arrival in Israel.
PROBLEMS CITED BY WITNESSES
A few of the witnesses complained of low living standards, a poor quality of life in Israel and difficulties educating their children. Others were satisfied with the educational facilities. Most of the problems involved bureaucratic snarls, especially in housing, loan applications and mortgages. They seemed to feel that if settled Canadians handled this paper work it would proceed more efficiently.
Rosalind Artzi, who came to Israel from Montreal in 1972 with her husband and daughter, charged that the Jewish Agency neglected immigrants from Western countries because their attitude was that all Western olim had the necessary financial resources to get along. By and large, the complaints voiced by the Canadians stemmed from conditions encountered by olim from all parts of the world and, in fact, by many native-born Israelis.
ALMOGI ANSWERS CRITICISM
The Jewish Agency’s attitude toward the hearings apparently generated more attention here than the testimony heard. Almogi complained yesterday that the press was playing up the inquiry beyond its true proportions. He noted that the Agency is in touch with immigrants and in contact with organizations and Zionist federations with regard to their problems.
The problems of absorption. Almogi said, should be handled in the “proper framework.” He said that if an investigative panel had been set up by a Zionist federation, for example, the British Zionist Federation embracing all Zionist bodies in Britain, the Jewish Agency “would have participated.”
Referring to other matters, Almogi insisted that the World Zionist Organization of which he is chairman, took no position in the controversy over the illegal Gush Emunim squatters at Kadum in Samaria. He denied that the fact that the Jewish Agency supplied the squatters with mobile homes indicated any attitude one way or the other.
Almogi also asked the press to give him “time” to implement the changes he promised to make in the Jewish Agency when he became chairman of the Executive. “The changes I am thinking of cannot be carried out in one day.” he said.