Tuesday, June 4, 2013

More than a million immigrants? Can do!

It's time we went back to the efforts to integrate the masses of immigrants who arrived in Israel's first years; we've mostly been doing this recently from the rich file on the matter from Ben Gurion's office, ×’-3013.12 (see the previous installment here). Today's document is informative, but mostly it's, well, quaint. No one would have written such a document in 2013 - or 1973, for that matter. But it was written in 1949.

Actually, it's an undated document; it appears truncated, ending abruptly in what seems to be mid-paragraph on page three, with two pages of data tacked on; and it's unsigned. Being an archive, however, rather than a library, we're not overly fazed. It's in a file we recognize; and it's wedged between other documents which indicate that it was written in early 1949; and no matter who authored it, it was important enough to be filed in the prime minister's files. So here it is. It's titled "A 5-Year Plan for Settlements, 1949-1953".
The challenge: By the end of the year there will be one million people in Israel. Over the next four, we expect 900,000 additional immigrants, and natural growth of 100,000. By the end of 1953 there will be two million Israelis, of whom 1,200,000 will have immigrated since creation of the state. At least 200,000 of them must be integrated as farmers, or 60,000 family units.
The document assumes, without specifically saying, that most of the immigrants are penniless and it's the task of the state to find them housing and employment. This is implied in the following breakdown of the 60,000 new units that must be created:
10,000 can be settled in existing settlements.
35,000 will need to be settled in new settlements.
5,000 will have enough capital of their own that they'll be able to acquire their own farms in existing villages.
10,000 will find employment in supporting services for the farmers.
The majority of settlements will be built in the north, where there's water and areas left empty of their former inhabitants. A minority will be settled in the northern Negev, to the extent we can pipe water down there within five years. In the southern Negev, we'll build a small number of experimental settlements, and learn how agriculture might be done that deep into the desert.
In order to grow enough food for two million people we're going to have to expand the areas under cultivation. (The document lists acreage per crop.)
The document also recommends expanding Israel's fishing capacities, in order to produce sufficient proteins. It then turns to the inevitable issue of funds: more than 100,000,000 Pounds will be needed.
The project must be centrally planned. We'll need to significantly expand our distribution systems. Although we intend to produce as much of our own food as possible, we should also investigate the possibility of exporting some products. We'll also need to develop a marketing system.
We'll need to invest a major effort in training the new farmers. Once we're already doing that, they need also to be taught the values of the Histadrut (the main trade union), and they need to be connected to it.
By and large, the plan was successfully executed. The rate of immigration turned out a bit slower than the author of the report expected, but not significantly so. The fact that the folks in the prime minister's office were unfazed by the dimensions of the challenge may have had something to do with it.


  1. "Once we're already doing that, they need also to be taught the values of the Histadrut (the main trade union), and they need to be connected to it."


  2. This is like a class in Nation Building 101