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Zionism in Action Youth Aliya Focuses on Israelis

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Some 12,000 of the 15,000 “wards” of youth aliya are Israelis nowadays. Since 1972, the number of young immigrants coming to Israel without their parents and attending youth aliya schools has dramatically decreased. As a result, while in the past the “veteran” Israeli children accounted for one-third of all the youth aliya pupils, they are now four-fifths.

Shraga Adiel, director-general of the youth aliya department of the Jewish Agency, believes that the main reason for the Jewish parents’ reluctance to send their children to Israel is their fear of army service. The decrease in the number of young immigrants caused the 28th World Zionist Congress held in 1972 to resolve that youth aliya’s network of schools be assigned to absorb an initial 4600 disadvantaged Israeli youth. The move was taken, too, as part of the increasing involvement of the organization in Israel’s domestic problems.

The issue of youth aliya was first taken up at the 18th Zionist Congress held in 1933 in Prague. The specific issue of expanding the youth aliya program to include Israeli youngsters was taken up at the 28th Congress.

Adiel explained to this reporter the criteria–social and educational–by which Israeli disadvantaged children are admitted by youth aliya. Under the social criterion, children of families living in conditions of distress (officially defined as three or more to a room) are eligible. Under the educational criterion, children are accepted if they have already dropped out of regular school and receive no formal education, if they are incessant truants, or if for some other reason they cannot benefit from regular school classes.

Most of the Israeli children taken in by youth aliya since 1972 (about 10,000) are at the department’s chain of youth villages and boarding institutions, living and learning together with immigran

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