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November 23, 1984 - Image 25

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1984-11-23

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THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS Friday, November 23, 1984


•q e:kz•

The most
job in



Chaim Aron heads the Aliyah
desk in Jerusalem, trying to
convince Diaspora Jews to come
live in Israel. But fewer and
fewer do.




ust about everyone knows who
Ariel Sharon is; hardly anyone knows

the name Chaim Aron.
But Chaim Aron doesn't care. He
got the job last winter that Sharon
wanted: head of the Aliyah desk of
the Jewish Agency and World Zion-
ist Organization.
Aron's style is decidedly low-key,
reflecting the difference between a
career diplomat and a career general.
In fact, some in Israel have noted
pointedly that the difference between -
the names "Sharon" and "Aron" is
"Sh," as in quiet.
Sharon, you may remember, want-
ed the influential post in an effort to
ensure that those making aliyah (set-
tling in Israel) would be settled in
Judea and Samaria, the West Bank.
But the controverisial general was
defeated and the post was given to
Aron, an active Herut party member
who made aliyah from his native
Chile in 1958, at the age of 15.
"I don't want to tell olim (emi-
grants) where in Israel they should
live," he said during a recent inter-
view. "I have no monopoly on aliyah.
I want to help people settle wherever
they choose, whether it's a settle-
ment in Samaria or an apartment in
Tel Aviv. I want them to decide, not

Aron says that people invariably
compare his actions to "what Sharon
might have done," but, he shrugs, "in
Israel, everything is political so
that's fine." He says he wanted the
job because aliyah is as important to
Israel as security and defense — for
a Jewish state to grow and prosper
it must have more Jews. "It's also a
vital part of our relationship with the
Diaspora," he adds. "We need a new
language to speak with our fellow
Jews around the world, to make them
realize we are still one people, with a
common past and future. And aliyah
can do that."
But despite the sincere and noble
sentiments, Aron knows full well that
aliyah has never been successful. In-
deed, promoting aliyah from the free
world has got to be one of the most
frustrating jobs in Israel, a country
where frustration is a way of life.
Consider the fact that despite Is-
rael's claim that aliyah is perhaps the
state's most important goal, last
year, out of 14 million Jews in the
world, only 17,000 Jews came to set-
tle in the Jewish state. The figure
from the U.S. was about 2,500 —
which represents an increase! But in
all, there was a 25-30 percent de-
crease in aliyah from the free world.
Aron attributes that in part to the

fact that the economic situation in
Israel deteriorated last year while it
improved in the U.S. and Argentina,
two important sources of aliyah.
Which leads one to the inescapable
conclusion that the better Jews have
it in a Diaspora country, the less like-
ly they are to choose to live in Israel.
"Sorrowfully, this is true," said
Aron, who hopes to improve the sit-
uation by stressing "the challenge of
living in a country where you can

Last year, out of 14 million
Jews in the world, only
17,000 came to settle in

change things and play a meaningful
He says the prospects for increased
aliyah will improve only when "peo-
ple realize you can live as well in
Israel as anywhere else, plus you
have the benefit of the Jewish com-
ponent of living there.

"A good shaliach cannot be mea-
sured by how many people they help
process to Israel," he noted, "but
rather in giving correct information, •
being helpful and generally creating
a good environment for aliyah."
Aron says that more than a thou-
sand people work on promoting ali-
yah from the free world and bringing
aliyah from the non-free world and
communities in distress. There are
some 70 shlichim around the world.
Helping Soviet Jews emigrate and -
settle in Israel was once a major part
of the work of the Aliyah Desk but
since the Kremlin has all but cut off
emigration in the last several years,
Aron's staff concentrates more on
"trying to keep up the fight and be
ready for them (Soviet Jews) if the
situation improves." There are about
170,000 Soviet Jews who have set-
tled in Israel over the last 15 years,
compared to about 30,000 Jews who
came from the U.S.
A new focus of the Aliyah desk is
the Ethiopian Jews who are making
their way to Israel, on their own and
through rescue efforts. Aron was re-
luctant to discuss the details, or even
the numbers of Ethiopian Jews arriv-
ing, for fear of jeopardizing the effort,
but did say that "much time is spent

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