FEBRUARY 28, 1962
JERUSALEM—On last Sunday morning we visited an experimental area where I had visited when in Israel with my granddaughter three years ago. It is called Kiryat Gat and is a place where they have initiated a new treatment of immigrants.
At first they thought the way to amalgamate people was to put them all together in a village on arrival, regardless of nationality. This proved unsatisfactory for a number of reasons. For instance, many women coming from Oriental areas wanted one kind of food from the shops and people from other areas wanted other kinds. These people are coming from a wide variety of countries—including students from the new African nations and many people from Asian countries.
The idea was developed to have people from one particular area of the world settle in a village and then to build a town in one central area convenient to these surrounding villages. In this town are put secondary schools, social services, better shops than the little ones usually set up in villages, hospital clinic, motion-picture theater, and any other cultural activity such as library, auditorium or stadium for sports.
The reasoning behind the idea is that the older people would come in from the villages at least once a week or so and the children, who are growing together in the town school, would draw their elders together little by little.
The process of amalgamation would be slower, but in the end it would be less painful than throwing them all together at the start in one place. The head of the agricultural services, who explained this theory to us, told us it was not working out perfectly, but he felt that on the whole it was doing better than the old plan had done and, of course, the area was still only five years old.
The agricultural plan in the villages today is different from that of the first settlers, too, when they were pretty much on their own. Today, what they grow in the villages comes into town for processing and furnishes labor for the townspeople. Crops are beet sugar, some tabacco, sisal, and a variety of vegetables—practically all of which is processed and shipped away.
From Kiryat Gat we went to a small inn right down on the Mediterranean Sea. We could see the water and the beautiful beach and feel the refreshing air even though sand dunes were a protection from the wind. It was a charming inn, with good food, and I was told that in the summer there are no vacancies and already rooms had been added to the original establishment. Also, another hotel is being built farther out on the sand dunes.
We didn't drive into Beersheba until about 4:30 in the afternoon but before dark we drove around the town itself, which in the past three years has added some 10,000 people.
It is now called an immigrant town because so many people are sent there to settle. The children tell me that when they walk into a schoolroom they never know how many new youngsters they will meet.
I visited a youth center in Beersheba where my granddaughter and I had attended the opening three years ago. I found that it had developed tremendously and was meeting a problem that is peculiar to Israel. Because of the constant immigration of whole families from areas where there may have been good schools and from other countries where there may have been little or no schooling for the children, the older children in both cases are too old to go through the Israeli primary schools.
All of the youngsters must learn Hebrew, however, and they must become accustomed to their new country. The youth center is the answer that has been devised for them.
The girls learn Hebrew and other elementary subjects if they haven't been to school before. They get home economics training and sewing and are prepared to work in a textile factory which was designed to employ the women of Beersheba.
The boys also learn Hebrew and, if they haven't been to school before or had little schooling, get the fundamentals of an education and are also trained in machine-tool work, carpentry and several other skills which would make it possible for them to be employed in various factories of the locality.
On Monday morning we visited a plant that makes ceramics—mostly ordinary things like bathroom fixtures. But it also has a beautiful art department where designers were at work producing original decorations on various pieces before being baked under intense heat. I have always admired Israeli pottery, and I saw many beautiful things in this particular factory. I was told the plant is represented by an agent in the United States, but I could not learn at just what shops their goods could be found in New York.
We then visited an immigrant village that has been settled for about seven years and where a new children's center has just been established. Mrs. Weizmann met us there and opened the center, to which her name was given. There were bright and healthy looking youngsters from 10 different countries, and they'll have a lot to do to live up to such an illustrious name.
My general impression from this visit to Israel is of much more well-being, even for the new immigrants, than there was a few years ago.