Thirty Soviet Jewish emigrants began a hunger strike in Rome, Italy, on Monday (31 May) to back their demands for entry permits to the United States.
GV Jewish demonstrators outside Jewish Welfare Centre building
CUs Demonstrators holding banners declaring hunger strike (5 shots)
Initials BB/0040 BBJB/AH/BB/0050
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Background: Thirty Soviet Jewish emigrants began a hunger strike in Rome, Italy, on Monday (31 May) to back their demands for entry permits to the United States.
They are part of a group of 450 Jews who originally settled in Israel after leaving the Soviet Union but later went to Italy in the hope of moving on to the United States. American officials have said though that because the group had settled in Israel first, they could not be considered as refugees.
The 30 are fasting outside the offices of Jewish welfare organisations, including the American-Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, known as JOINT.
In Jewish religious law there is no greater mitzvah (commandment) than to return to the land of zion -- Israel. Over one and a half million Jews have settled in Israel since its emergence in 1948. But Israeli officials are now troubled by a continuing exodus from the Jewish state.
Nearly 40 per cent of new immigrants from Western countries have returned to their original homelands within five years. In 1975, and total of 19,000 Jews left Israel, while only 19,7000 arrived.
About 80 per cent of the expatriate Israelis have gone to the U.S., where there are large Jewish communities in New York City, Los Angeles, Boston and Chicago.
Israel is currently suffering one of the world's worst economic inflation rates. There have been nine devaluations of the Israeli pound in the past year. Despite offering state-subsidized mortgages and other inducements, the Jerusalem government has failed so far to reverse the emigration trend.