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September 15, 1989 - Image 36

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-09-15

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

INSIGHT

For Israelis, Soviet
Aliyah Mixed Blessing

Aliyah is Israel's lifeblood, but absorbing
thousands of new immigrants is an
added strain on the economy.

The Jewish News

ZE'EV CHAFETS

Israel Correspondent

keeps you posted on Jewish happenings
everywhere!

Cal

T

he Bush Administra-
tion's decision to
drastically limit the
number of Russian Jews
allowed to immigrate to the
U.S. is being greeted here
with satisfaction — and more
than a little concern.

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36

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 1989

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THE

JEWISH NEWS!

- The good news, as far as
Israeli officials are concerned,
is that the change in policy
could result in a massive in-
flux of new olim (emigrants).
For more than a decade, Is-
raeli officials have watched
with anger and frustration as
the vast majority of Russian
emigres chose Brighton
Beach over Jerusalem. Much
of this anger has been dir-
ected at American Jewish
organizations, such as HIAS,
which help the Russian Jews
settle in America, and at
Jewish leaders who defend
the drop-outs on the basis of
freedom Of choice. -
Now the freedom to choose
America is being limited by
the U.S. government, just at
a time when the Soviet Union
is liberalizing its emigration
laws. Official estimates of the
number of Jews who will
leave the USSR in the next
decade vary from 500,000 to
L000,000. Indeed, many
high-ranking Israelis believe
that this is precisely the
reason for the change of
American policy.
"George Bush is not a
Zionist, and he didn't make
this decision on the basis of
what was good or bad for
Israel — he was thinking
about America," says Uri Gor-
don, who heads the Jewish
Agency's Aliyah Department.
"Taking in so many
newcomers is a tremendous
burden, and the Americans
don't want to assume it."
Gordon also believes, that
most of the American Jewish
establishment will go along.
"They understand that it is
important for Israel to get
more Jews," he said. "Besides,
they don't have the money to
absorb that many?'
The cost of absorption will
be considerable. According to
forecasts by the Ministry of
Finance, 100,000 Russian
Jews will arrive here between
1990 and 1992, and the bill
for resettling them will be
roughly $3 billion. Most of

the cost will be paid, as usual,
by the already over-burdened
Israeli taxpayer, but officials
are counting on American
Jews for some assistance. This
month, Finance Minister
Shimon Peres will go to the
United States, where he will
ask Jewish leaders to raise
one billion dollars to help
defray the expense. "Without
such help, we will be in a dif-
ficult situation," says Peres'
deputy, Yossi Beilen.
Perhaps the primary diffi-
culty will be providing jobs for
the immigrants. Most of them
are well educated, but few
know Hebrew and some have
been trained in areas, such as
mine engineering or arctic
forestry research, which are
of no use in Israel. Even those

Perhaps the
primary difficulty
will be providing
jobs for the
immigrants.

with less exotic skills may
have a hard time: according to
government projections, fully
15 percent of the newcomers
will be engineers and medical
doctors, professions that are
already overcrowded.
Housing will also be a prob-
lem. The country's public ab-
sorption centers are already
packed, and providing flats on
the private market is expen-
sive. The government gives
olim loans and grants to buy
apartments; this, in turn,
drives up demand — and the
cost of housing for young
couples and others.
As a result, not all Israelis
are delighted by the prospect
of a large Russian immigra-
tion. "There are already
150,000 people out of work
here," said a Tel Aviv business
woman. "Thousands of our
own youngsters have to go
abroad to find a job. They
should come- first."
This feeling has been ex-
acerbated by the atitude of
the Russian Jews themselves.
There are currently some ten
thousand in transit camps in
Italy, waiting to be admitted
to the U.S. as refugees.
"These people belong here,"
says-. Gitit Migeres,
spokeswoman for the Public
Council on Soviet Jewry.
"They have a country to go to.
It's a disgrace that they call

.4

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