Israel to Ask American Jewish Communities to Finance Its Foreign Aid Projects

Israel is trying to persuade Jewish federations and communities in the Unites States to finance Israeli aid programs in foreign countries, Haaretz has learned.

The first initiative of this sort will be presented today at the United Jewish Communities (UJC) General Assembly taking place in Toronto.

Israel's Consul General in New York, Arye Mekel, will propose to the UJC that it become an active partner in the Foreign Ministry's projects in developing and poor countries.

The Foreign Ministry's department for international cooperation has been operating since 1958 and is helping some 114 third-world countries with aid and technological knowledge. The department's programs consist of courses and training foreign residents in various professions.

However, due to cutbacks jeopardizing the department's work, the Foreign Ministry decided to appeal to the Jewish federations and communities in the United States to help finance the projects, such as stopping AIDS from spreading in Africa or helping victims of natural disasters.

Israel is offering the UJC involvement in setting the order of priorities for aid projects in Africa or Asia. In addition, every federation and community would be able to choose independently from a list of objectives and take active part in carrying out projects in a certain country or developing community.

Mekel told Haaretz yesterday that Israeli experts will be in charge of carrying out the projects on the ground and Israeli instructors will train the local personnel.

However, the main idea is that funding some of the projects would create a partnership between American Jews and Israel.

Senior Jewish figures told Haaretz yesterday that they have received positive preliminary reactions to the Israeli initiative.

"Although the Toronto GA focuses almost exclusively on local community needs, the very fact that the leaders of the UJC agreed to give time to present the Foreign Ministry's initiative is a positive sign," the leader of a Jewish organization in New York said yesterday.