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Israeli President Scolds Jews for Canceling Trips to Israel

November 21, 1990
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American Jewish leaders got a scolding last week from Israeli President Chaim Herzog for canceling trips to Israel at a time when the Jewish state is in great need of foreign revenue.

“This is certainly no time for American Jewish organizations to cancel their conferences in Israel,” Herzog told some 3,000 delegates and guests attending the 59th General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations here.

“I ask you, is it right and dignified that many elements of American Jewry should have seen fit at this time to cancel their conventions and to distance themselves physically from the Jewish homeland, and thus to weaken our ranks?” he asked in an address given last Thursday.

In a clear attempt to make American Jews feel ashamed, Herzog pointed out that the “bulk of Christian tourism,” constituting 65 percent of tourism to Israel, was still coming as planned.

He said he had been “impressed by the large number of Christian groups” that came last month to an open house he hosted in a sukkah. “They demonstratively came in order to show their solidarity with us,” he said.

“What am I to say when Jewish groups from the United States that were due to come on this occasion failed to arrive?”

The Israeli president was referring to the decision by several federations around the country to cancel “mega-missions” to Israel in the wake of the Persian Gulf crisis and a spate of stabbing attacks against Jews in Israel.

Herzog neglected to mention, however, that a number of federations and national Jewish organizations have hastily organized special missions to show solidarity with Israel.


Apparently Israeli leaders are not yet convinced the tourism problem has been turned around. Promoting tourism to Israel, in fact, emerged as one of the major themes of this year’s CJF General Assembly.

It came up during the opening plenary of the assembly last Wednesday evening, when the chairman of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors, Mendel Kaplan, challenged delegates to hold their 1992 assembly in Jerusalem, rather than New York, as scheduled.

A proposal to this effect was introduced on the floor of the assembly’s business session Friday morning. But the issue was tabled by the CJF leadership for consideration at a future date.

Earlier that same morning, CJF had added a special session to the program to deal specifically with tourism to Israel.

The session included an appeal from Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, who addressed delegates via a live satellite broadcast from Israel.

Kollek said that while he understood the “queasy feeling” American Jews experienced after last month’s violence on the Temple Mount, they should realize that “Jerusalem is a safe city. There is less danger in Jerusalem than any American or European city of the same size.”

Also speaking at the session was Robert Adler of Chicago, chairman of CJF’s Israel Office Committee, who said the American Jewish community must “stop giving our enemies comfort” by staying away from Israel.

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