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July 12, 1991 - Image 41

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-07-12

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

Optical.
Plus

such an eventuality.
The Finance Minister's op-
timism is not shared by most
of his fellow citizens, who
fail to see how Israel can
provide homes and jobs for a
flood of immigrants without
many billions in U.S. aid
and loan guarantees. But, in
point of fact, Israel once did
just that.
During the first years of
the State, between 1948 and
1952, Israel virtually tripled
its population through im-
migration and did so with
scarcely any outside assis-
tance. But there is reason to
doubt whether immigrants,
or veteran Israelis for that
matter, would accept the
kind of living conditions that
existed four decades ago,
conditions graphically de-
scribed in Tom Segev's book,

.

1949 — The First Israelis.
Mr.Segev quotes, for ex-
ample, from a contemporary
newspaper account by
Ha' aretz staffer Aryeh
Gelblum, who spent several
days posing as an immigrant
at Sha'ar Ha'aliyah, a
former British Army bar-
racks on the southern out-
skirts of Haifa, through
which hundreds of
thousands of newcomers
passed during the 1948-52
period.
Mr. Gelblum wrote in
graphic detail of the crowded
living conditions, the
unpleasant odors and utter
lack of privacy as well as the
sound of mice moving about
at night while one tried to
fall asleep.
The sanitary facilities
were no better, as Mr.
Gelblum pointed out: "There
are entire sections with
thousands of men, women
and children, where there is
not a single shower room.
And the few wretched little
bathrooms in the area are
occupied by people who have
nowhere else to stay."
Later, immigrants were
sent to ma'abarot (transition
centers), in which most of
them remained for years
before being given perma-
nent housing.
The conditions in the
ma'abarot were as bad or
worse than those found in
Arab refugee camps. But to
Israel's everlasting credit,
the people of this country
didn't just sit around moan-
ing about the situation; they
set about improving it. So
the ma'abarot were even-
tually replaced by modern
housing estates, while the
Arab refugee camps remain-
ed cesspools of squalor.
Contingency plans not-
withstanding, no one would
like to see ma'abarot rise
again. ❑

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