JERUSALEM (Feb. 26)
Soviet Jewry activist Natan Sharansky on Monday denounced a resolution adopted last week by leaders of Jewish communities across the United States that warned Israel not to settle Soviet Jews in the West Bank.
A Jewish group should not be highlighting an issue that “simply doesn’t exist,” Sharansky contended, citing Israeli government statistics that show only a tiny fraction of Soviet immigrants settle in the administered territories.
He spoke of his dismay at the 216-207 vote on the matter at the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council’s plenary in Phoenix last week, saying that a Jewish group should not be drawing attention to an issue that has been overblown in the news media.
Sharansky spoke Monday, along with a number of fellow Soviet Jewry activists and recent emigres, at the annual Israel seminar of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
Both Sharansky and the recent arrivals from the Soviet Union related the now-familiar stories of panic among Jews there about threats of anti-Semitic violence from ultranationalist groups.
Also speaking at the session on Soviet aliyah was Ze’ev Bielsky, the mayor of the town of Ra’anana. Bielsky spoke so glowingly of his community’s successful absorption experience that one recent arrival asked plaintively what his telephone number was, clearly interested in settling there.
Bielsky and Sharansky strongly urged absorption to take place on the municipal level, with Diaspora communities entering partnerships with Israeli towns.