JERUSALEM (Aug. 9)
A record number of 10,000 youngsters from abroad have participated this year in activities in Israel offered by the Jewish Agency’s youth and hechalutz department, Mordechai Bar On, the department’s head, told a news conference yesterday. He predicted the number should reach almost 20,000 by the end of the year as part of the decision by the Jerusalem Solidarity Conference last year to make 1976 the year of pilgrimage to Israel.
Some 4200 of the participants were from the United States and Canada. Another 2500 came from Western Europe, 1000 from Britain and 150 from Iran, Greece and Turkey.
Bar On said that during the 20 years the program has existed, 30 percent of the diaspora youth who participated in year-long and half-year projects have immigrated to Israel. But, he said, of equal importance is that the projects serve to build up diaspora leadership. He said the youths who participate in programs in Israel return to their communities as natural leaders. At the same time, he said, their contacts with Israeli youths are rewarding for the Israelis who discover the importance of world Jewry. “We have turned Israelis into Zionists,” Bar On said.
The youths travel to Israel at their own expense except for a $100 per person subsidy from the Jewish Agency. A 44-day seminar in Israel costs up to $1000, including the round-trip flight. About 8000 of the youngsters participated in the summer programs. A staff of 350 Israelis organized the activities, which will end this week, with a series of events in Jerusalem and the south.