JERUSALEM (Dec. 18)
Finance Minister Shimon Peres chastised world Jewry on Monday for not rushing to assist Israel in the upcoming task of absorbing tens of thousands of new immigrants.
“Jewish people, where are you?” Peres demanded, wagging an accusing finger in the Knesset. “Larger sums are allocated in the direction of the local federations, and less and less money reaches Israel, “he declared.
Peres, who is vice premier, addressed a special Knesset session devoted to the imminent prospect of absorbing much larger numbers of immigrants than have arrived in recent years.
The magnitude of the problem drew a larger than usual attendance by Knesset members and Cabinet ministers. The galleries were packed with the heads of immigrant associations, representatives of the Jewish Agency for Israel and community leaders.
Peres maintained that Israel has the right to demand that the Jewish people share a greater part of the aliyah burden.
Instead, he said, they “shrug off responsibility and do not contribute to the efforts that Israel faces. Never before has there been such detachment from the joint responsibility for the absorption of immigrants,” he said.
In New York, news of the finance minister’s remarks surprised leaders of the United Jewish Appeal, who pointed out that their special Passage to Freedom campaign has so far raised more than $47 million, with more than 50 percent going to help absorption needs in Israel.
UJA is also in the midst of planning a far more ambitious campaign, due to begin early next year, that would be devoted entirely to the absorption of immigrants in Israel.
Monday’s Knesset session was convened to help address concerns arising from the unusually large influx of immigrants expected to arrive from the Soviet Union in the immediate future.