JERUSALEM (Jun. 25)
Numerous expressions of unrest over the housing situation in Israel and the slowness with which “Project Renewal” Is getting off the ground clouded the atmosphere yesterday for the opening of the Jewish Agency Assembly at the Binyanei Haoomo. convention hall here. In the Katamon Tet area at the other end of the capital, hundreds of local people protested angrily and at times violently, and against their inadequate living conditions and against the fact that “Project Renewal ” although slated to start in their area, has so far shown no tangible signs of activity.
The protest was intended to coincide with the opening of the Assembly, where “Renewal” and the housing problem — especially the problem of housing for new immigrants — were certain to be focal issues. At the same time, the head of the Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel said the AACI would warn potential olim not to come unless there were drastic improvements in the housing situation.
Mrs. Esther Zackler, head of Pioneer Women in the U.S. before emigrating said she would tell Americans and Canadians thinking of aliya to postpone coming here for 3-5 years until the situation improved or until they could save enough money to buy a home in Israel. A four-room apartment in a good residential area of Jerusalem sells today for between IL 2.7-3.0 million, about $120,000.
SHARP CABINET EXCHANGE
In the Cabinet, meanwhile, the opening of the Jewish Agency Assembly was the occasion for a sharp exchange between. Housing Minister David Levy and Deputy Premier Yigael Yadin over “Project Renewal.” Levy has long criticized the Jewish Agency’s position that overseas donors and communities providing Funds for “Renewal” should be directly involved in the specific “Renewal” projects. According to a radio news report, Levy accused the Jewish Agency yesterday of “trying to set up a state within a state.” He reportedly said that the Agency had raised some $60 million for “Project Renewal” but was refusing to release the money. Yadin defended the Agency position, referring to an agreement between the government and the Agency. But several other ministers seemed to sympathize with Levy’s sentiments.
Summing up the brief debate, Premier Menachem Begin said it was high time to end these feuds and get down to the practical work of “Project Renewal.” The same message was the theme of President Yitzhak Navon’s address at the opening session of the Agency Assembly. “Renewal” could boomerang, Navon warned, unless “words are overtaken by deeds.” He seemed to refer, to the mounting resentment in many substandard housing areas at the fact that two years of talking and planning have not yet materialized in to new homes, schools and community centers.
Navon also urged on and to the demarcational disputes that have dogged the project. “Immediate decisions must be taken as to who is to do what and how,” he said. “It is important that the Jews of the diaspora, the local authorities and the inhabitants of the target areas themselves be taken into partnership in thinking and planning….. It is not too late to put the situation right.”