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February 23, 1990 - Image 29

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-02-23

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

SPECIAL REPORT II THE NEW EXODUS

MID-WINTER

Glasnost's Gifts

SPECIAL

SALE $96.

Continued from preceding page

SALE $49.

Teak Bookcase,
70" x 32" x 11V-2",
Cash and Carry, 3 for $278.

White Melamine Bookcase,
681/2" x 27" x 9-1/4",
Cash &r Carry,
3 for $135.

prospect of West European
integration in 1992.
At the same time, the
winding down of military
needs in both the United
States and the Soviet Union
means that the two military
giants will be looking for
new markets for their hard-
pressed military industries.
These new pickings are most
likely to be found among Is-
rael's traditional clients in
the Third World, where low-
intensity conflicts are unaf-
fected by the gathering pace
of peace elsewhere.

SALE $175.

White Melamine Double Dresser,
58" x 15" x 28",
Cash & Carry, Reg. $215.

house of denmark 13

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Hitting Home
There is no doubt that the
break-up of the Soviet em-
pire will have far-reaching
implications for the Jewish
state, but for ordinary Israe-
lis, matters of military bal-
ance and international di-
plomacy are esoteric sub-
jects which do not impinge
on the daily imperatives of
housing and jobs.
It is here that glasnost
might yet leave its most
lasting imprint. Beyond all
the speculation about the
diplomatic, military and ec-
onomic consequences of the
Soviet revolution, the over-
whelming effect on Israel is
likely to be felt in human
terms — in the immigration
bonanza from both the Sovi-
et Union and Eastern Eu-
rope.
That is certainly the view
at No. 2 Haor Street. And
the failure of Israeli leaders
to provide any coherent plan
to match the extraordinary
developments is reflected in
the frustration and outrage
of the veteran Soviet im-
migrants, who are coming to
the shocking realization that
the government simply does
not know how to absorb
great numbers of their
brothers.
Their rage is finding an
echo in Israel's slum neigh-
borhoods, where Sephardi
activists are threatening civ-
il unrest if Russian newcom-
ers are given homes and jobs
ahead of the Sephardi poor,
whose parents and grand-
parents washed up on Isra-
el's shores 40 years ago.
Sharansky and his col-
leagues have taken these
threats "very seriously."
They have gone out of their
way to meet with Sephardi
leaders and they have been
quick to establish a dialogue
in a bid to prevent a disas-
trous clash between the two
groups.
These encounters, says

Sharansky, have already led
to one important conclusion:
"We found that we have a
lot in common — that we
suffer from the same prob-
lems and that we can coop-
erate instead of competing."
The root of the problem is
that Israel's bureaucracy,
inflexible and apparently in-
capable of adjusting to the
new challenges, runs on pa-
tronage and political favors,
playing off one interest
group against another, leav-
ing the weakest, most vul-
nerable sectors to fall inex-
orably to the bottom of the
priority pile.
In many important re-
spects, Israel still draws on
the model of the Eastern
bloc rather than the West, a
phenomenon that has given
rise to a joke currently doing
the rounds of Tel Aviv.
When even Albania becomes
democratic, the joke goes,
Israel will have the last
Stalinist bureaucracy in the
world.
Sharansky is not
laughing. He is determined
that past mistakes should
not be repeated. He wants to
smash the old molds and de-
stroy the old dogmas which
held that Israel's national
cake was necessarily limited;
that a slice awarded to one
group must be at the ex-
pense of another.
"Instead of fighting over a
diminishing national cake,"
he says, "we must work to
make the cake bigger."
He perceives the coming
wave of mass Soviet im-
migration as a "national
emergency" which should
serve as a catalyst for real
change that will end the
stifling bureaucracy, attract
foreign investment, rejuve-
nate the economy and create
jobs and decent housing for
all.
If that sounds suspi-
ciously like a political plat-
form, Yitzhak Shamir and
Shimon Peres should be sit-
ting up and taking notice.
An effective Soviet-
Sephardi alliance, with the
formidable figure of Natan
Sharansky at its head,
might just prove to be the
kind of glasnost gift they
were not expecting.

Helen Davis is a journalist
based in London. This arti-
cle was made possible by a
grant from the Fund For
Journalism On Jewish Life,
a project of the CRB Foun-
dation of Montreal, Canada.
Any views expressed are
solely those of the author.

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