Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Daniel Elazar Papers Index

Israel-Diaspora Relations

The Israeli Setting

Project Renewal in Israel:
Urban Revitalization through Partnership
, Chapter I

Daniel J. Elazar

In June 1977, Project Renewal, a unique urban revitalization program, was announced by Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The program was proposed as a joint endeavor, a partnership between the Jews of the State of Israel and the diaspora. The surprise announcement was delivered with only a few days preparation. Diaspora leadership was only notified immediately prior to the announcement. The speech was infused with social vision by a prime minister exuberant in the flush of political victory. Drawing upon a biblical reference to the pursuit of justice, the prime minister called for the elimination of poverty through an intensive effort to provide adequate housing for approximately 45,000 Israeli families.

The processes of urban renewal which would take place in Israel in the following years did not develop ex nihilo from this moment. Rather, they drew from past programmatic bases and their development, as Project Renewal, would reflect a variety of new influences, both indigenous and external.

Israel's earlier efforts at improving the situation of the nation's most disadvantaged citizens, in addition to an extensive social welfare system, consisted of slum clearance and the construction of densely populated public housing projects (shikunim). Unlike public housing programs in the United States and even the United Kingdom, programs in Israel allocated housing on a universal basis. In American public housing programs, except in the immediate postwar period, only the lowest income families were eligible. In Israel, new immigrants of any financial means received some form of public shelter. On the other hand, urban renewal programs in the United States placed land in the hands of private developers, with the result that housing for the poor was demolished and replaced with upper income housing. Urban renewal in Israel was kept under public control and resulted in replacement housing according to a number of enforced eligibility criteria.

Despite these contrasting orientations, the Israeli efforts in urban renewal were based upon the same early social assumptions as in America, namely that relocation of disadvantaged populations in new housing developments would eliminate the roots of poverty and social distress. Rapid physical deterioration and social distress manifested itself, however, in the very areas which had been constructed in the late sixties and seventies as solutions to both inadequate housing and social disadvantage.

The growing realization that these earlier approaches did not rectify social ills and that the implementation of a housing solution to poverty independently of social policy would impair attainment of even the housing goals was to have a significant effect on the development of Project Renewal. In its formative stages, therefore, Project Renewal was guided by the accumulated experience and point of view of both previous Israeli domestic experiments as well as principles which underlay urban rehabilitation efforts in the developed countries, mainly the United States and, to some extent, the United Kingdom.

From its inception, Project Renewal contained two singular elements. It involved the application of an extensive urban renewal and rehabilitation project in a new and developing country using modern construction techniques, guided by Western ideas of planning and implementation, and informed by a desire to function according to democratic ideals. In addition, Project Renewal was a joint undertaking of diaspora Jewry from the Western countries and the government of Israel. These two elements gave an added dimension to the rehabilitation process and were inextricably intertwined, since the leading diaspora communities were located in the United States and consequently their involvement reinforced the modernizing and democratic features which the Israelis wished to apply to their renewal process.

Obviously, then, Israel's Project Renewal was not launched in an urban renewal vacuum. Israel's own past experience weighed heavily in the concepts which accompanied the program. In addition, the awareness and interest of several Israelis appointed to coordinate and manage the implementation of Project Renewal in similar projects carried out in the United States brought fresh thinking to the question of Israeli urban revitalization. Moreover, external trends occurring worldwide during this time, including a tendency towards political decentralization, greater state receptivity to participatory values, greater professionalization in municipal planning and community development, and an emerging sensitivity to the importance of conserving viable or historically valued physical structures, filtered into the Israeli urban renewal environment. Finally, the mid-twentieth century notion that poverty and social distress are not so much a result of defective individual or personality attributes, but rather are spawned by social conditions for which the public must assume responsibility, was a central tenet of Israeli social values and political culture.

With particular and vital regard to this latter concept, urban renewal in Israel was and is intimately linked to the entire Zionist enterprise, namely, to the reconstruction of a Jewish state and the reshaping and constitution of the Jewish people in its homeland. The early pioneers proclaimed, and ensuing waves of immigrants were reminded, that to rebuild and to be rebuilt were woven together as inextricable parts of the Zionist praxis. Physical and spiritual renewal are one process. They are further bound together in the Project Renewal endeavor through the recent emergence of pluralist values stressing that the revitalization of individual communities would serve the larger aim of communal crystallization of a nation. Telling the story of the construction of a society and the roots of diaspora involvement in that story will provide a clearer background to understanding the direction and scope of Project Renewal itself.

Urban Settlement and Community as Ideology and Reality in Israel

Contemporary Israel and the Zionist movement have drawn their attitudes to the city from a variety of sources. They were inspired in their pioneering efforts and choices of names and locations for their settlements by the Bible and the history of ancient Israel. Their approach to new town development was influenced by the British experience and to urban renewal by the example of the United States. In addition, there are elements in the Israeli urban experience which parallel the organic outlook of the Greek heritage and the impetus toward social concord which guided Roman urban policy both during the republic and the principate. Overall, however, the city occupied a marginal place in Zionist ideology, which extolled the virtues of rural life.

Characteristic of the Zionist outlook was the statement of A.D. Gordon, considered the mentor of the back-to-the-land movement in Zionism, that "the Jewish people had been completely cut off from nature and imprisoned within city walls these two thousand years... It will require the greatest effort of will for such a people to become normal again."1 Even the Marxist Zionist theoretician, Dov Ber Borochov, writing from pre-Leninist Russia, noted that "the basis of every society is the agricultural class" and continued: "The entire life and fate of the Jews in the Diaspora, long ago cut off from the land and with no agricultural class, depends entirely on finding a society which, because it needs the services of the Jews, will give them in return agricultural products, cattle, or manufactured goods." Thus the Jewish diaspora was condemned "to live only in the cities."2

The negative orientation of Zionism to the urban arena has been noted by Erik Cohen.3 The Zionist enterprise was initially directed to reclamation of the land through agricultural settlement. Dispersion had uprooted the Jewish nation not only from its homeland but from its earlier pastoral and agricultural pursuits, remembrance of which survived in the major Jewish religious holidays associated with seasonal aspects of husbandry in the land of Israel, which were scrupulously observed in exile. The essentially secular Zionist movement seized upon Jewish history and traditions in an effort to recreate the conditions of independence and national autonomy which the ancient Israelites experienced. There was also strong antipathy to urban living because it was associated with the embourgeoisement of the Jewish people in exile. The Socialist Zionist movement, with its visions of justice and social equality, wished to eradicate elements of social structure which contributed to exploitation and social dominance of one sector of society over another. A major role for the city and its pursuits was regarded as an impediment to a renewed egalitarian society.

To be sure, there was great pride in the establishment of the first modern Jewish city - Tel Aviv. Writers wrote wistfully about the prospects of Jewish garbage and even Jewish criminals. But primacy of place was given ideologically to rural communities, especially collective settlements such as the kibbutzim and moshavim. Yet, despite the Zionist outlook, the majority of Jewish immigrants opted for city life. Today, nearly 90 percent of Israel's population is located in urban areas. Yet the power of the "national agrarian myth" maintained values and policies which overshadowed this sector, leading to neglect of its pioneering achievements as well as its most crucial needs.

The Social and Economic Context

When the State of Israel was proclaimed in 1948, its Jewish population numbered 649,500. Through 1951, the new state absorbed nearly 685,000 immigrants. This rapid and intensive demographic growth laid the basis for development in other areas of Israeli society. In the next two decades (1952-1969), 600,000 more Jews made their way to the country. By 1971, the total population numbered 3,069,300. New immigrants accounted for nearly half of the increase during this period. Only in the last decade has immigration lost much of its demographic weight, accounting for only 19.1 percent of growth since 1973. The population of Israel reached four million in 1983, a five-fold increase within a thirty-five year span.

Economic growth has been even more dramatic. Links between the fledgling state and the diaspora worldwide enabled it to develop capabilities far beyond its extremely limited natural resources. A significant factor in this phenomenon was its "human capital," a combination arising from the continued arrival in Israel of educated immigrants as well as the ability of the new state to mobilize the talents of the Jewish academic and scientific community abroad. During the first two decades of the state, the greater part of the diaspora contribution was financial, as organized philanthropic campaigns grew both in the amounts contributed and the complexity of their organizational outreach. Contributing to Israel through the two large fundraising campaigns of the United Israel Appeal in the United States and Keren Hayesod in the other diaspora communities and the purchase of Israel Bonds became a typical expression of identity and belonging for diaspora Jewry worldwide.

Israel became an economy in "take-off," thanks to these enormous increases in both capital and human resources. In its first twenty-five years, it attained one of the highest rates of growth in its Gross National Product in the world, bequeathing its citizens a standard of living comparable to and often exceeding levels of many European nations (see table 1.1). The government strove to distribute equitably the newly produced wealth through progressive taxation and other measures favored by welfare states.

Table 1.1

Gross Domestic Product Per Capita Growth Rates
In Israel and European Countries (in constant prices 1950-73)4

Israel 5.8
Austria 5.0
Belgium 3.6
Denmark 3.4
Finland 4.4
France 4.2
West Germany 5.1
Greece 6.3
Ireland 3.2
Italy 4.8
Luxembourg 2.2
Netherlands 3.7
Norway 3.3
Portugal 5.3
Spain 5.7
Sweden 3.0
Switzerland 3.0
Turkey 3.5
United Kingdom 2.4
Yugoslavia 4.8
European Median 3.7

* Constant prices for a year between 1958-68 for European countries, most often 1963; base year 1970 for Israel.

However, a price was paid by following a policy of social equity during a period when capital formation and economic expansion was required. The mass influx of population required government intervention in population distribution to prevent skewed patterns of settlement and to accommodate the limited absorption capacities of specific areas of the country. In the early fifties, the country's leaders were already forced to modify their strategy, which favored the placing of new immigrants in agricultural settings (kibbutzim or moshavim), and began to embark on a policy of large scale urban settlement.

By 1965, thirty development towns had been founded or expanded from existing small urban infrastructures to house the hundreds of thousands of newly arrived immigrants. Many of these towns were located in the most remote and isolated areas of the country as part of an overall strategic design to secure Israel's borders and populate the hinterlands. Of these towns, a large number were later identified as distressed areas and appeared prominently in Project Renewal in the seventies.

All urban settlement took place under emergency conditions, dictated by the mass arrival of immigrants. As immigration subsided and resources at the disposal of the government increased, more time and effort was expended on town and regional planning. The Lachish regional project in the northern Negev area, undertaken in 1956, was the first project in the country stressing a regional approach. A central objective of the Lachish project was to integrate urban and rural development by having the geographical center serve as a market and cultural focus for the surrounding area. Other projects, borrowing heavily from the New Towns concept in England, produced burgeoning development town communities such as Arad (1964) and Carmiel (1965), and more recently, Ma'ale Adumim (1983). By and large, these later efforts at settlement have proven viable and contrast sharply with the makeshift villages and towns set up in the early fifties to cope with mass immigration.

The State Government Setting

As in every parliamentary system, executive powers are invested in a cabinet, known in Israel as the government, which is constituted by the Knesset after each election and which serves as long as it has the confidence of that body. Israeli cabinets are invariably coalition governments, and multiparty coalitions at that, with one or two dominant parties, plus a number of smaller ones. By law, only the prime minister must be a member of the Knesset; other ministers need not be, but, in fact, the overwhelming majority are Knesset members. As is the case in other parliamentary systems today, while in theory the government is responsible to the Knesset, in fact, it holds most of the power and the influence of the Knesset tends to be secondary. Most of the real powers of the Knesset are invested in its committees, which perform an oversight function relative to the government and its ministries.

Israel has a judiciary whose independence is jealously guarded and conscientiously maintained by all branches of government. The judiciary is capped by a Supreme Court which has extended its powers to include many of those usually associated with a constitutional court.

The executive branch is organized into ministries whose number varies from government to government, although most of the basic ministries have had a continuous life since the establishment of the state.

Israel is a government-permeated society. Government expenditures generate a large volume of the total economic activity of the country and functionally, its operating arms -- the ministries -- are involved in almost every facet of Israeli society. The state ministries command budgets and bureaucracies that are large by western democratic standards.

For example, the Ministry of Construction and Housing operates with a great deal of autonomy, handling almost all problems of housing on its own. The ministry carries out the detailed planning of residential quarters in towns and settlements, programs the construction of housing and public buildings, sets their budgets, issues tenders and selects contractors, and decides upon the criteria for subsidies and housing allocations. A population committee which affects decisions on the population mix in newly constructed areas is also located in this ministry. Although much of its activity must be coordinated with agencies involved in physical construction, its extensive budget and pervasive hold on the housing market give the ministry considerable power and influence.5

Formally, the ministries are located at the apex of a highly centralized state. In reality, in many ministries, centralist tendencies are modified by the multiplicity of actors and agencies on various levels of government interacting in the particular sphere of the ministry's jurisdiction. The multiplicity of political control, the fact that the state ministries are controlled by the various political parties that make up the government, further softens centralist tendencies by making them more responsive to external demands and interests.

At the same time, such multiparty control in a consociational form of democracy makes it difficult to formulate and implement a unified social welfare policy.6 Political control in the ministries is reflected on both the ministerial and administrative levels. Not only the minister but the director-general is a political appointee. The present political distribution of the ministries concerned with social welfare in Israel's current national unity government is a good example. The Ministry of Construction and Housing is controlled by the Likud, the major right-wing party. The Ministry of Education and Culture is controlled by the left-of-center Alignment. Control of the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare and the Ministry of Health are similarly shared by these two parties, and the Ministry of Interior is controlled by an ultra-Orthodox religious party.

The Local Government Setting

There are 163 municipalities in Israel, 38 cities, and 125 local councils (the equivalent of towns), representing a combined constituency of over three and a half million inhabitants or approximately 85 percent of the population. Cities range in population between 15,000 and 430,000, while the populations of local councils varies from 5,000 to over 15,000 inhabitants. Israel, it should be noted, is an overwhelmingly urban society; nearly 90 percent of the population live in essentially urban environments.

Israel is well-known as a highly centralized state, a function of its founders' adoption of continental European notions of statism as a natural attribute of political sovereignty. Yet, Israel is centralized in form but not in substance, since the state was itself built out of a compound of local settlements which represented the focus of the Zionist enterprise prior to 1948. This was not only true of the agricultural sector where the kibbutzim and moshavim were the major instruments of the settlement of the land, but also in the cities where the Jews built autonomous institutions in neighborhoods within mixed cities or entire municipalities where possible. These local bodies were the principal centers of governing power under the British Mandate and, although much of their authority was transferred to the state after it was established, the tradition of local liberties remains strong.

Those traditions are reinforced by a highly egalitarian political culture in which the giving and taking of orders is far from the norm. Thus it is difficult even for those ministries empowered to do so to act hierarchically towards local government. Rather, they must negotiate with their local counterparts to achieve their goals.

Organizationally, there is very little difference between cities and local councils. In both cases, mayors are elected by direct popular election while councils are elected through the same proportional representation system as is used for the Knesset. The mayors sit as members of the city council and, by selecting vice-mayors, in effect form coalition governments which constitute the local executive branch in a manner similar to that of the central government.

Thus, the State of Israel as a whole is a mosaic compounded of central and local authorities functioning together, each with its appropriate competences, powers and tasks.7 The appropriate constitutional model for understanding state-local relations, then, is not hierarchical, nor is it even central-peripheral in the sense that the local authorities are defined as peripheral to the central organs of the state. Rather, it is a compound structure. The state provides the framework for this mosaic and its organs are responsible for its framing functions. Within that framework the local authorities and their organs are equally responsible for their respective functions.

This is not to say that the state does not or should not exercise authority over local governments under the law in a wide variety of fields, including an ultimate authority under the constitution for the specific way in which local government is constituted. But, as one observer has noted in referring to public enterprise in general in Israel, "there are more organizations with government participation than can be supervised or controlled in routine fashion by finance or other ministries."8 This situation provides the space in which new norms of public activity and public administration, which bend and extend the formal constitutional framework, may evolve. In turn, the augmented powers reinforce local and parochial interests, providing a counterweight to the potential dominance of the central authorities.

Such arrangements are most common in the fields of education and welfare, the two staples of the local public delivery system in Israel, accounting for over 40 percent of local council expenditures. Elementary and secondary school education is provided by a partnership between state and local authorities. Israel does not have independent school boards. Instead, city councils handle whatever tasks are devolved upon them with regard to school matters, usually through a vice-mayor for education and an education committee of the local council. The Ministry of Education and Culture funds all the operating costs of the regular elementary education program, the junior high schools, and a few of the high schools, as well as being responsible for the certification and employment of teachers.

Despite this apparently highly centralized structure, Israeli education is, in fact, rather decentralized. The local authorities are responsible for providing and maintaining school buildings and equipment (including textbooks, based upon ministry lists), and for the registration and enrollment of students for virtually all ancillary and enrichment programs, beginning with prekindergarten education. They also have direct control over almost all high schools in the country. Thus, the local departments of education are in a position to direct local educational affairs and, since the ancillary and enrichment serves are becoming an ever larger part of every school's program, their influence is expanding.

Welfare is formally a cooperative state-local service in which the localities operate welfare programs funded in whole or in part by the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare. Although the majority of Israel's welfare budget for income insurance and services to special population groups is funded by the central government, local authorities have taken on increasing responsibility, authority and activity in welfare services. The operation of social welfare programs is similar to that of grant-in-aid programs in other countries. The localities have responsibility for determining eligibility under criteria promulgated by the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare. They create the packages of welfare benefits to be provided to any individual or family on the basis of the various programs as defined by law, and they furnish the social services needed to assist the family in rehabilitation or adjustment to its condition.

Our perspective, then, is that state powers are pervasive in the Israeli polity, but do not exhibit a classic, hierarchical pattern. While there are factors which contribute to a pronounced dependency of the local upon the central arena, there are also divisions of powers which provide the local arena with its own legitimate public space of operations. Moreover, the local arena creates its own de facto space for maneuvering, by virtue of the nature of the rules of the political game which stress informal over formal arrangements, and also by virtue of weak sanction enforcement in those instances where violations of the formal rules do occur.

The local authorities are forced to act in this fashion because they serve as the fulcrum between the state's penetration into the local arena and the citizens' demand for more and better goods and services. It was into this dynamic that Project Renewal was thrust with the objective of squaring the circle by mediating and resolving the contradictory tendencies of nation building and social betterment goals.

The Jewish Agency9

What is unique about the Israeli case is the heavy involvement of diaspora Jewry on a voluntary but organized basis through the Jewish Agency for Israel. The Jewish Agency has been in existence since 1929 as one principal arm of world Jewry for the rebuilding of a Jewish national home in the land of Israel. It is a unique instrumentality, established by international public law under the provisions of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine and has no parallel in the world, thus reflecting the uniqueness of the Israeli situation and the Jewish people. Nevertheless, as an organization which mobilizes voluntary effort from outside of Israel, it can be compared with other such bodies that provide outside assistance to local revitalization efforts.

The Jewish Agency is one of several "national institutions" functioning within the state's territory. These institutions are so named because they are considered to belong to the entire Jewish people (in Zionist terminology, nation), and not to the State of Israel alone.

The Jewish Agency is the largest national institution and the only one involved in Project Renewal. As noted above, the Jewish Agency came into existence during the early period of the British Mandate in Palestine. It was regarded by the British authorities as the organizational address for implementing the 1917 Balfour Declaration's favorable disposition to the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people. In 1922, the League of Nations gave Great Britain the Mandate for Palestine. As part of the Mandate, it was stated that, to implement the Balfour declaration, there should be established "an appropriate Jewish agency."10

The ensuing years saw a major attempt to build a Jewish Agency from two components, the so-called non-Zionist or philanthropic sectors and the Zionist or political sector. In 1929, a partnership was achieved with representation from distinguished non-Zionist Jewish leaders, such as lawyer Louis Marshall, scientist Albert Einstein, and industrialist Felix Warburg. The alliance never fully came into existence, and over the years the Zionist elements continued to control and speak for the Jewish Agency.

From 1929, until the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948, the Jewish Agency was the principal instrument of world Jewry's organized involvement in the upbuilding of the Jewish national home in Palestine. It was also directly responsible for the health, welfare, and educational institutions serving the Yishuv, the existing Jewish population in Palestine.

In 1952, the official role of the Jewish Agency was defined by the Knesset in the Law of Status, which made the Jewish Agency responsible for the "ingathering of the exiles" and for their absorption in Israel. The body was still dominated by the Zionist (i.e., political) elements. In 1971, a reconstitution agreement brought the non-Zionists back into the picture. Under the agreement, the non-Zionists in the Jewish Agency are designated by the central fundraising organizations for Israel, these being the community bodies which have the broadest base of representation in the various diaspora Jewish communities. In the United States, the designating body is the United Israel Appeal (UIA); in other countries of the diaspora, the designating bodies are the fundraising organizations affiliated with the Keren Hayesod. The Israeli population is represented through the World Zionist Organization via a political key system which reflects voting patterns in the Israeli elections for the Knesset.

In sum, the Jewish Agency functions as a central instrument, consciously designed to forge a stronger partnership between diaspora Jewry and the Israeli people. Organizationally, it is composed of both diaspora and Israeli representation. It thus reflects the communal liaisons and varying interests of the parties involved.

Organizational Structure

The Jewish Agency consists of a constituent body called an assembly, a board of governors, and an executive which is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Agency. Both the Assembly (398 members) and the Board of Governors (74 members) have representation equally divided between the WZO and fundraising bodies affiliated with the Keren Hayesod and the United Israel Appeal (UIA). The Executive currently consists of nineteen members. The chairman of the Board of Governors comes by agreement from the diaspora, whereas the chairman of the Executive is an Israeli who is also chairman of the WZO Executive. The selection of the Executive chairman is influenced by political party alignments in the Knesset.

The Jewish Agency has a civil service staff of approximately four thousand. Since U.S. Internal Revenue Service regulations demand that an American body retain control of philanthropic funds expended abroad, the UIA has responsibility for these tax-exempt philanthropic funds until they are spent. While the UIA has a contract naming the Jewish Agency as its agent for this purpose, active participation in the Agency's governance, plus continuous monitoring and reporting are required. The UIA cannot legally relinquish responsibility and control. Its representatives on the Agency's governing bodies are accountable to the United States government and to American Jewish contributors. Funds channeled to the Jewish Agency from Keren Hayesod countries are regulated by the laws of the respective countries other than the United States.

Jewish Agency Activities

In the thirty-eight years since the establishment of the state, the Jewish Agency has expended approximately $7.2 billion, two-thirds of which has come from world Jewry through the campaigns of the United Jewish Appeal (UJA) and Keren Hayesod. The rest has come from German reparations, participation of the Israeli government, borrowing and collection of debts.

Since the proclamation of Israel's statehood, the Jewish Agency has assisted in the absorption of more than 1,700,000 immigrants. Over five hundred agricultural settlements were established with some 150,000 settlers. Some 350,000 housing units were built. More than 150,000 children and youth were enabled to enter the mainstream of Israeli life through the programs of Youth Aliya.

The Six Day War marked a significant change not only in the dimensions of the Jewish Agency budget, but also in the nature of the Agency's activities. In 1967, the defense burden required such a large proportion of Israel's resources that the Agency had to assume a much larger share of its social and communal responsibilities, notably those directed at completing the task of absorbing the hundreds of thousands of earlier immigrants who had lagged behind as Israeli society moved forward. Specifically, this meant a much greater role for the Agency in helping to close the social gap in Israel - in housing, education, and improving the quality of life. In 1972, Jewish Agency community work was expanded with the establishment of its housing management company, Amigur. Subsequently, other community-oriented programs were added, such as special programs for disadvantaged youth, the community leadership training program conducted in conjunction with the Bureau of Sephardi Affairs, and a number of other special projects.

In most of its responsibilities, the Jewish Agency was primarily concerned with disadvantaged sectors of the Israeli population. The majority of immigrants came from lands of distress. Youth Aliya, which originally cared for orphaned children or children who did not arrive in Israel at the same time as their parents, is today devoting its resources to disadvantaged native-born Israeli youth. The Rural Settlement Department was directly involved in helping immigrants settle in collective agricultural enterprises. All of these efforts were regarded as assistance in overcoming the initial difficulties of adapting to a new land and a new culture. They were not conceived of as dealing with endemic poverty or cultural deprivation as such. The problem of generational poverty and a "social gap" began to be addressed only when the second generation, offspring of immigrants, began to manifest the same socioeconomic characteristics of distress as their parents' generation.

Though the Jewish Agency is primarily a service organization, active Agency participation in the Israeli public service delivery system is not free of political concerns. There is a desire on the part of the Agency to cement relations with diaspora leadership. The Agency is the official voice of the diaspora in Israeli public affairs. It is a major Israeli power center which straddles the space between the diaspora and the government of Israel. As a primary organization in Israeli life, it is perennially engaged in battle with the Israeli government on matters pertaining to social, economic and educational development.

Sometimes the battle is waged in defending its right to exist.11 As a quasi-public, voluntary institution sharing many, often overlapping, functional jurisdictions with government, it has often been accused of being a redundant organization. At the same time, its importance is widely recognized in certain spheres of Israeli life such as boarding school education for the disadvantaged, settlement and the absorption of immigrants, due in part to its budgetary clout and its autonomy and diversity. The Agency has sought new areas of endeavor as the importance of these functions decline.

Project Renewal marks the Agency's full-scale entrance into the urban arena, an arena which had been the preeminent domain of the central government. In addition, one should not overlook the political power structure in the Jewish Agency which has been essentially formed by the existing (past and present) political coalitions and rivalries which govern public life in Israel. Finally, while Project Renewal, by stressing a partnership, opens up new vistas for Jewish Agency activities, it also provides an opening for the government to deal more directly with the diaspora. For the Jewish Agency, its exclusive prerogative in this area has now been potentially diluted.

The Israel setting, then, presents us with a number of partnerships. Whether they are organized in the democratic centralist mold as suggested by Horowitz, consociational linkages as analyzed by Paltiel, or compounded organizational entities as argued by Elazar, they all entail some form of interlocking order. The consensual framework in which this takes place gives the linkages the structure of a partnership, rather than, let us say, an alliance, which suggests a more restricted base of association. In addition to common goals and interests, partnership embraces joint rights and connotes a more intimate common engagement. This is the spirit in which various actors joined the project. Some, such as the diaspora, regarded the partnership as a test of the nature of their relationship with the Jewish Agency and Israel. Others, such as residents and the local authority representatives, felt caught in the transition from client or agent status to that of active and initiating participant. The story of Project Renewal is as much a record of changing the social environment as it is that of changing the nature of organizational relationships among key institutional actors in Israel.

Project Renewal's Approach

In Project Renewal in Israel, the community action approach attempted to bring target population aspirations into accord with the demands of society at large. It addressed social apathy and alienation as a falling apart of social bonds and its "corrective" interventions consisted of seeking out or promoting local leadership and stressing the importance of mutual support and programming in the neighborhood context. Here the notion of human social solidarity is perceived and assumed as the crucial element - that ties of affection and common identity can restore disaggregate units to their wholesome, original, collective selves.

Community restoration also took the form of encouraging a forging of institutional interests in the local arena. Thus, resource exchange of funding, information, prestige, legitimacy, and power would be cultivated through a locally representative agency whose task was to coordinate a community focus among divergently- oriented service delivery and funding bodies. This approach to urban revitalization and conservation was most prominent in the Model Cities program, where interest coordination was conceived as the key to project realization. It was an underlying, perhaps unconsciously held, strategy in the structure of Project Renewal in the local arena.

The term best-suited to describe this strategy of interest coordination is partnership. Openly applied to the diaspora-Israel linkage, it embraced numerous arrangements ranging from city hall and central government coordination to a new partnership of the target population with administrators of the project. Project Renewal was a new way of carrying out revitalization. The various commitments of representative sectors to work together appear not so much in public pronouncements as they do through the effective functioning of novel and established organizational mechanisms. However, one early document does point to the two-pronged strategy of restructured organization and re-formed community. A central objective of the new program was the coordination of disparate efforts "into a manageable and coherent human and social service system" in order to bring about a "comprehensive social program of community reconstruction."12 Thus, the various partnerships would operate in the service of social transformation. Interestingly enough, some organizations and public bodies such as the Community Center Corporation and the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare made significant accomodations in their programming in order to enter into tandem partnerships.


1. A.D. Gordon, "People and Labor," in The Zionist Idea, edited by A. Hertzberg (New York: Atheneum, 1972), 372.

2. B. Borochov, "On Questions of Zionist Theory," in Sources of Contemporary Jewish Thought, 2nd ed., edited by D. Hardan (Jerusalem: Haomanim Press, 1971), 42, 47, (Hebrew).

3. E. Cohen, The City in Zionist Ideology (Jerusalem: Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Institute of Urban and Regional Studies, 1970).

4. M.C. Spechler, "Israel's Economic Achievements After 30 Years: Contemporary Perspectives," in Israel: A Developing Society, edited by A. Arian (Assen, the Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1980), 395.

5. N. Carmon, M. Hill, et al., Neighborhood Rehabilitation in Israel, Research Report No. 1 (Haifa: Technion, Neaman Institute, 1979).

6. J. Paltiel, The Israel Coalition System, Government and Opposition, no. 4 (Autumn 1975), 397-414.

7. D.J. Elazar, "The Compound Structure of Public Service Delivery Systems in Israel," in Comparing Urban Public Service Delivery Systems, edited by V. Ostrom and F.P. Bish, (Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1971), 44-82.

8. I. Sharkansky, Public Enterprise in the Urban Setting with Particular Attention to the Case of Israel (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Institute for Federal Studies, 1978), 32.

9. For the only extensive treatment of the Jewish Agency, see D.J. Elazar and A.M. Dortort, editors, Understanding the Jewish Agency: A Handbook, rev. ed. (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1985). For an historical account from an insider, see Z. Chinitz, A Common Agenda: The Reconstitution of the Jewish Agency for Israel (Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 1985).

10. See the Mandate for Palestine, Article 4, in J.M. Moore, editor, The Arab-Israeli Conflict, vol. 3, Documents (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1974), 76.

11. For example, E. Jaffe, editor, Givers and Spenders: The Politics of Charity in Israel (Jerusalem: Ariel Publishing House, 1985).

12. New Social Programs in Israel, 1978-82 (Jerusalem: Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 1978).

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