LOS ANGELES (Sep. 24)
The Jewish leadership in the United States bears some of the responsibility for the low percentage of Soviet Jews opting to settle in Israel, Moshe Arens, Israel’s foreign minister, charged here.
The responsibility, he said, lies both in “enticing” Soviet Jews to come to America and in the lack of large-scale U.S. aliyah to Israel, which would serve as a role model for Soviet emigres.
“When Soviet Jews see American Jews going on aliyah, they will go, too,” Arens told a group of some 60 Californians planning to settle in Israel. He spoke during a five-day visit before attending the United Nations General Assembly session in New York.
Stressing the importance of aliyah in half a dozen public appearances, Arens emphasized that if more Jews had come to Israel between the two world wars, the Jewish state might have been established sooner and some of the horrors of the Holocaust could have been avoided.
In the same vein, he said that “of the half-million Jews who left the Soviet Union in the 1970s and ’80s, only 170,000 came to Israel, and if more had come, the state would now be much stronger.”
The whole issue of Soviet emigration is now coming to a head, Arens said, because at the moment, almost anyone who wants to leave the Soviet Union can do so. “A large part of the 2 million Soviet Jews want to leave and leave now, and they’re afraid that the gates may not be open much longer,” he said.
Arens bemoaned the fact that only 2,000 out of some 6 million American Jews make aliyah each year. And that figure does not take into account the large number who eventually return to America or Israelis who move to the United States.
Arens, who was educated in the United States and served in the U.S. Army, sought to encourage his listeners by presenting himself, and the late Prime Minister Golda Meir, as “living proof that you can come from the U.S. to Israel and reach a position of some importance.”