JERUSALEM (Jul. 27)
Local city councils in Israel have pledged to welcome into their individual communities a fixed number of the half-million Soviet immigrants expected to arrive here in the next few years.
The pledges ranged from cities like Ashkelon, which said it would accept 2,000 over the next five years, to smaller towns like Yehud, which committed to absorbing 200 refugees.
The pledges took place at a meeting Wednesday of the Conference of Mayors, which was convened by the Jewish Agency in order to discuss ways to implement a proposal called “Absorption Through the Local Municipalities.”
The proposal, put together by Uri Gordon, head of the Jewish Agency’s Immigration and Absorption Department, outlines a plan of direct absorption by local authorities in place of the current system of absorption by the Jewish Agency and the government’s Immigration Ministry.
Simcha Dinitz, chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive, spelled out the program for the absorption of Soviet Jews and the 3,000 to 4,000 people from South America who are expected to leave their countries of origin within the next five years.
Dinitz said that a high percentage of these Jews could be convinced to immigrate to Israel if assured of employment and adequate housing and schooling for their children.
The representatives from the councils appeared enthusiastic about the role they could play in absorbing new immigrants.
One after another rose to give details of the employment situation in their cities, and their experience in absorbing immigrants in the past.
Mordechai Linik, head of Yehud’s local council, arrived with a folder showing how his township is preparing itself for the expected influx of immigrants.
Linik called for a central body with representatives from the Jewish Agency, the Ministry of Absorption and other government ministries to coordinate absorption with the local councils.
The call was echoed by Labor Knesset member Eli Dayan, mayor of Ashkelon, and others.