Immigration, Absorption Machinery Comes Under Sharp Criticism

Israel’s immigration and absorption machinery has come under sharp criticism from the heads of associations of immigrants from the Soviet Union, Latin America, the U.S. and Canada. They say that unless radical changes are made there was no hope for increased settlement here by Jews from abroad.

That warning was sounded by Daniel Bluz, chairman of the Soviet Immigrants Association, and Eliezer Dalman, chairman of the Association of Latin American Immigrants, in testimony before a Knesset committee last week. Yitzhak Heimowitz, president of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel and Ernest Siegel, executive director of the AACI, complained at a press conference today that present methods employed to promote aliya from North America were ineffective.

Bluz, who had just returned from a visit to Vienna, said the aliya authorities must recognize that Jews leaving the Soviet Union now do so “because of the negative aspects of life there rather than the positive aspects of life in Israel.” He attributed the high dropout rate among Soviet Jewish emigrants to a “lack of Zionist enthusiasm” and “a certain suspicion they have toward Jewish Agency emissaries.”

Dalman maintained, however, that the fault was not with the emissaries but with the people who send them. “To regain aliya momentum we must ‘Zionize’ this country once again.” he said, adding that “it seems that the World Zionist Organization fails to understand the changes taking place in the mentality of Jews in the diaspora. The WZO has not succeeded in explaining what Jewish identity is all about,” he said.

ALMOGI COMES UNDER FIRE

Heimowitz accused WZO and Jewish Agency Executive chairman Yosef Almogi of killing a plan worked out two years ago to send North American olim who have successfully integrated into Israeli life back to their countries of origin to serve as aliya emissaries. He said it was generally agreed that the best emissaries are those who have undergone the experience of aliya and absorption in Israel.

But according to Heimowitz, Almogi ended this procedure two months ago because of the plan to set up aliya desks in the U.S. and Canada staffed by members of the local Jewish communities. “If an American who doesn’t know the answers sits behind those desks they will be of no value,” he said. Almogi was not immediately available for comment.

Heimowitz and Siegel also criticized the recommendations of the Horev committee for re-organizing the immigration and absorption processes. They said that the committee had detailed the total failure of the Jewish Agency and the Absorption Ministry but then went on to propose the creation of an immigration and absorption authority within the framework of the Jewish Agency.

What was needed was an autonomous authority divorced from the Jewish Agency with the powers and the budget to operate effective absorption machinery, they said. They also suggested that local immigrants associations be given funds and authority to deal with the difficult tasks of social absorption and assisting immigrants during their initial period in the country. Heimowitz said that the AACI plans to build 150 flats in Jerusalem to be rented to elderly olim.

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