EXCERPT FROM THE ZIONIST NEWS LETTER
OF 23 AUGUST 1949
"The Continuance of Chalutziuth and
Immigration is the responsibility
of the Jewish people"*
The decrease in the rate of immigration from a peak of 30,000 in recent months to little over half that figure is mainly due to the fact that the main reservoirs of immigrants in Europe during the past few years are either drying up or being sealed off. A major source of immigrants in recent years were the D.P. camps in Germany and Austria. A problem of extreme acuteness only a little over a year ago, the camps will probably be emptied by the end of September of this year. By then it is expected that some 4,500 persons will arrive in Israel from the camps, leaving a total of 50,500 Jews in Germany and Austria who have not signified their definite intention to come to Israel. He number is distributed as follows:
The figure of 50,500 includes about 4,500 social cases and chronic invalids in Germany and 1,500 in Austria, half of whom would like to come to Israel They, will be dealt with by a special body which will be formed for the purpose if the negotiations now in progress between the Jewish Agency and the American Joint Distribution Committee are concluded successfully. Possibly between 5.000 and 7,000 of the Jews in the camps, who have not yet stated their intention of coming to Israel, will nevertheless immigrate during the coming year. Of the remainder, about 8,000 persons have applied to go to America, while the others evidently want to stay where they are.
Meanwhile the Zionist leaders in the camps are wondering whether the time has come for them to fulfil their Zionist aspirations at last by coming to Israel, or whether their duty requires them to stay behind for some time longer. Similarly, the Central Refugee Committee for the camps is debating whether to merge with the locally established Jewish communities outside the camps. These are unmistakable signs that the D.P. camps — one of the ugliest sores on the bruised body of the Jewish people — are on the road to liquidation
Another sign that the camps are in process of liquidation is the Jewish Agency’s decision to cut down the number of its workers sent out there from Israel from 60 to 18, The 500 children who will still be left in the camps after September will have three or four Israeli teachers to look after their education, in addition to 30 local teachers.
Two Communities Transferred to Israel
During the past year, immigration from Eastern Europe notably the Balkans — has been substantial. Two whole Jewries, those of Bulgaria and Yugoslavia have been almost completely transferred to Israel. Between October, 1948, and August, 1949, a total of 35,000 Jews arrived in Israel from Bulgaria and 7,000 from Yugoslavia. The only Jews left in those countries today comprise a very small proportion of the former communities. A similar process of liquidation is now taking place in Czechoslovakia. So far 16,500 Jews have arrived from that country in the recent past, and it is expected that another 4,000 will follow in the near future.
The position with regard to the other East European countries is not satisfactory. Zionist activity has been officially prohibited in Rumania and Hungary. Immigration from Rumania and Poland has been restricted to between 100 and 250 aged people and invalids per month from each country.**
Some of the Zionist leaders in Hungary are still being held in custody on the charge of organising the departure of Jews from that country in defiance of the law.
The Jewish people has cause to be deeply grateful to the people’s democracies of Eastern Europe for their support of Israel’s cause in the U.N. But it cannot agree to the imposition of a blockade upon the 600,000 Jewish inhabitants of those countries, many of whom ardently wish to come to Israel. It is therefore intended to make every effort to secure a reversal of the policy now being enforced with reference to the Jews living in the countries concerned.
The Near East: a major Factor in Immigration
With the approaching liquidation of the D.P. camps, the proposition of immigrants from Near Eastern countries is growing. Indeed, immigration in the near future will be mainly from those countries. During the past few months there has been a considerable immigration from Morocco. Now the rate of immigration from that country is slackening off somewhat. Nevertheless, a steady stream is expected to continue from there. There have been allegations to the effect that Moroccan Jews who came to Israel have returned to their country of origin in large numbers. In fact only a few hundred have gone back, mainly for the reason that they did not succeed in finding work immediately on arrival in Israel. The number who returned represent only a tiny fraction of the immigrants from Morocco; and though their departure is greatly regretted, it is realised that they comprise the inevitable percentage of misfits that every large body of immigrants must contain.
Although there is now a decrease in the number of immigrants from Morocco, the number from Tripolitania and other parts is growing. It is expected that between now and the end of the year a total of 45,000 to 50,000 Jews will arrive in Israel from Near Eastern countries. It is anticipated that Jews from Tripolitania and Turkey will head the list.
It is realised that immigrants from the Near East pose certain problems, and that they have special requirements that have to be met. As there is only a small chalutz (pioneer) element among the Near Eastern Jews, education towards pioneering will have to be provided for them in their countries of origin or while they are in transit for Israel. The Jewish Agency has reached an agreement with the Joint for the establishment of a network of short-term training centres for North African Jews, mainly in Southern France (where many of the immigrants spend a short period on their way to Israel). The two bodies have together allocated close on $100,000 for the purpose, a sum that will suffice for the establishment of training centres for 500 young people. It has also been decided to send out 20 teachers from Israel to Near Eastern countries. The cost will be defrayed by the Joint Zionist Activity in the West must be Revolutionised.
The greatest potential source of immigration is undoubtedly Jewry of the Western world. At the moment, however, the position among the Zionists there is far from satisfactory from this point of view. It is a regrettable fact that realisation of the importance of chalutziuth (pioneering) has not generally penetrated Zionist consciousness in the West, and that the modest attempts that are being made in the direction of chalutziuth are not meeting with the encouragement or understanding they deserve.
The Jewish people today is eating the fruit of thirty years of propaganda for “philanthropic” Zionism. The advocates of this brand of Zionism have always considered their duty to consist in providing financial means to enable their unfortunate brethren of Eastern Europe to go to Erezt Yisrael. They felt no obligation or inner compulsion to go themselves and thus achieve complete fulfilment of their Zionist ideal. The time of “philanthropic” Zionism is over, and Jews in the Western world should begin to revise their Zionist thinking.
A dangerous outlook has begun to prevail among Zionists in the Western world. They seem to believe that, now the State of Israel exists, there is no longer any need for chalutziuth. Nothing could be more erroneous than such a belief. The State was brought into existence very largely through the efforts of the pioneers who came from Eastern Europe. Today the great reservoir of manpower in Eastern Europe no longer exists. But the survival of the State depends in very large measure upon the availability of a continuing stream of pioneers. The Western world, with its seven million Jews, must try and take the place of the great masses of East European Jewry who have gone to their tragic fate and promote the development of a large-scale pioneering movement. If this does not come about, the future of the State may be gravely jeopardised.
*The following article is based on a survey given on the 7th August, 1949, by Mr. Eliahu Dokkin, head of the Jewish Agency Organisation, Information, Youth and Hechalutz Departments.
** Since Mr. Dobkin gave his survey, the Polish Government’s decision to increase the number of Polish Jews allowed to proceed to Israel has been reported in the press. The ban on emigration from Rumania, however, is still in force.
Document in PDF format