Israel Can Solve Economic Problems, Jewish Agency Assembly is Told

The country’s two top fiscal officials, Finance Minister Yigal Hurwitz and Arnon Gafni, Governor of the Bank of Israel, predicted today that Israel would overcome its severe economic problems. Both addressed the first working session of the Jewish Agency’s annual Assembly which opened here last night at a festive ceremony addressed by President Yitzhak Navon. The Assembly will continue through Thursday.

Gafni told the 340 delegates from Israel and abroad that the government’s present policy of economic restraint could reduce the annual rate of inflation by 30-40 percent if it is continued. He praised the liberalization of foreign currency restrictions and credited it with increasing Israel’s foreign currency reserves by some 50 percent, to about $3 billion. He noted that exports increased substantially during the past year. He attributed Israel’s economic troubles to growing energy and security costs.

Hurwitz expressed confidence that the State eventually would overcome its present economic crisis. He said he hoped that he would be remembered in the future not as a tough Finance Minister but as the minister who averted economic collapse.

SPIRITUAL REVIVAL URGED

In his speech last night, Navon called for a “project of spiritual revival” with emphasis on Jewish education, immigration and visits to Israel. He warned, however, that if present trends continue, there would be 2-3 million fewer Jews in the world by the end of the century. Navon claimed that intermarriage, assimilation and the law birth rate among Jews could be reversed and urged Jewish communities overseas to give Jewish education top priority in their budgets.

He praised the growth of Judaism in Israel. “There is more Judaism than ever before… more knowledge, more people who learn, read and teach, more yeshivot, and this wasn’t the case 15 years ago, he said.

Leon Dulzin, chairman of the Jewish Agency and World Zionist Organization Executives, expressed the hope that another million Jews would come to Israel by the end of this decade. He said the majority would probably come from the Soviet Union but warned against, the gradual closing of the doors to Jewish emigration from the USSR and the ongoing problem of drop-outs — Jews who go to countries other than Israel after leaving the USSR. Dulzin claimed that American Jewish organizations now realized that the high dropout rate is a catastrophe.

The Assembly’s agenda includes an excursion to Galilee and a study of the successes and failures to date of Project Renewal, the massive slum clearance and rehabilitation project undertaken by overseas Jewry in partnership with Israel.

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