JERUSALEM (Mar. 7)
Speakers from several factions in the Knesset attacked the United Jewish Appeal on Monday for launching a fund-raising campaign that “exploits” the name of Israel on behalf of Soviet Jews who have no intention of living here.
Their anger was directed at UJA’s recently announced “Passage to Freedom” campaign, a special effort to raise $75 million to cover the costs of resettling large numbers of Soviet Jews in the United States and Israel.
Ephraim Gur of Labor, who emigrated from Soviet Georgia as a teen-ager in the early 1970s, called the effort a “sabotage of Zionism.”
Israeli lawmakers are frustrated that 90 percent of recent Soviet Jews emigrating on Israeli visas have chosen to “drop out” — that is, live elsewhere than Israel. The Israelis say special efforts on their behalf only encourage the trend.
But Immigration and Absorption Minister Yitzhak Peretz implied that gaps in absorption services provided to new immigrants were partly responsible for the high drop-out rate. He called the deficiencies in such services “astounding.”
Half of the money raised by the special resettlement campaign is earmarked for the Jewish Agency’s absorption facilities in Israel.
Meanwhile, the World Zionist Executive called on world Jewry to stop funding services for Soviet Jewish emigrants in Ladispoli, Italy, who are awaiting entry to the United States and other countries.
The Executive recommended that the facilities there be closed immediately. Israelis are embarrassed by reports that more than 7,000 Soviet Jews are choosing to languish in Italy rather than settle in Israel.