Young Israelis Emigrating Abroad Roils Politics in Tel Aviv

Uri Avnery discusses the issue of young Jewish Israelis leaving Israel for other countries, including Germany. Israel’s out-emigration rate was similar to other industrial countries a decade ago, but it is possible that it has increased because of the rise in rents and property values and the increased divide between poor and rich. Many young Israelis find it less expensive to live in places like Berlin, where they also often are better paid than they would be at home.

Russia Today reports:

I wrote about this issue a couple of years ago:

[pdf] There are about 7.8 million Israelis, including 5.8 million Jewish-Israelis and 1.6 million Palestinian-Israelis (there are also three hundred thousand persons who are simply not Jewish. Within this group, there are some whose mothers were not Jewish and so are not counted officially as Jews, even though they might consider themselves Jewish and hold Israeli citizenship. Others have no claim on Jewishness at all. Neither group is being allowed to convert in any numbers by the Chief Rabbi).

Over time, the proportion of Palestinian-Israelis in the population will rise, and the number of Jews who do not strongly identify with Israel will likely do so, as well. Ian Lustick has argued that [pdf] in recent years the number of Jews who departed Israel probably equaled or exceeded the number who came in, so immigration as a method of retaining a Jewish majority is no longer viable.

Lustick [pdf] also quotes Israeli officials who estimate that up to a million Israelis live outside that country, some 600,000 in North America. Both Israel’s present and its future would look a lot different if Israel could entice these expatriates back. That was the point of the ads. Obviously, if Israeli-Americans intermarry with and assimilate into the Jewish-American community, they are unlikely to return to Israel in any numbers; indeed, if their children adopt Jewish-American ways and intermarry at high rates with non-Jews, a large proportion of their descendants wouldn’t even be eligible for full citizenship as Jews in Israel.

There are no further big Jewish communities that are likely to emigrate to Israel. Few American Jews want to live there. Some 50 percent of American Jews marry out into other communities, something that cannot even be done inside Israel. My suspicion is that more Israelis emigrate to Europe nowadays than European Jews emigrate to Israel. The Israeli Jews of European ancestry (Ashkenazim) and most of those originally from the Middle East (Mizrahim) have increasingly small families. An estimated 70-80 percent of Israeli Jews have other passports, just in case they need to jump ship, and a quarter of all Israeli academics live abroad.

The two populations in Israel with the youngest median age and the greatest likelihood of increase in numbers in the future are the Palestinian-Israelis and the Haredis or ultra-Orthodox Jews. These two groups will, through the 21st century, eclipse the Ashkenazi or European Jews, as well as the non-Haredi Eastern Jews. By 2030, 55% of Israeli school children will likely be either Palestinian-Israeli or Haredi, and they will be 47% of 15-19 year-olds, as well. (See this paper [pdf] by Richard P. Cincotta and Eric Kaufmann.) That is, by 2050 or 2060, if current growth rates continue and no dramatic changes take place in their political status, Palestinian-Israelis and Haredis will comprise a majority of voters outside the elderly.

Note that I am speaking of Israel proper, leaving aside the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza, which Israel is likely also to inherit, since it won’t give them a state of their own. But leave that issue aside for the moment.

The problem for Israeli nationalists is that neither Palestinian-Israelis nor Haredim are typically Zionists. The Ultra-Orthodox often reject the legitimacy of the state of Israel because they believe only the Messiah can establish a Jewish state and rule Jerusalem, and it is hubris for secular Zionists to make the attempt.

Palestinian-Israelis will probably be 30% of the Israeli population by 2030. Although they would not get along with Haredim on most issues, both communities avoid service in the Israeli army (with the exception among Palestinians of the Druze). Neither will be dutiful taxpayers. An Israel made up of a joint majority of Palestinian-Israelis and Haredis will be militarily and financially weak.”

7 Responses

  1. It’s very easy for Israeli Jews, but not Arabs, to secure a green card in the US, or acquire citizenship, whilst retaining their foreign passports. In fairness, why shouldn’t the US increase the quota for Palestinian immigration to about 5,000,000 as compensation for US support of ethnic cleansing by the Israeli?

  2. Maybe the future is not so grim: a secular Israel composed of secular Jews and Palestinians. Israel is blessed in that it’s Palestinian population are largely moderate Muslims. With the Haredim largely staying out of politics. That seems to be a solution that everyone can (should) live with.

    • The Haredim (ultraorthodox) are primarily non-Zionist in orientation.

      They believe that Israel has no religious legitimacy and their attitudes toward Palestinians are not monolithic.

      The leadership of Likud’s coalition partners, Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett, have made adverse comments regarding future Palestinian- Israeli relations – Lapid calling for a “very high fence” between the two groups and Bennett desiring full Israel Defense Forces control over the West Bank and no Palestinian statehood.

  3. Why not? Because the world is nuts. Not much “fair” about it at all.

    That which is sane and reasonable and moral–as your suggestion is–gets routinely squelched and trampled.

    About the only silver lining one can imagine is that, yes, it could be worse!


  4. Many people are confused about religious Jews in Israel — some are anti-Zionist and some are super-Zionist.

    At least “two major camps can be generally identified among religious Jews in Israel–the Orthodox (typically National-Religious) and the ultra-Orthodox (or Haredim), each with its own subdivisions.” During the early 2000s, religious Jews “constituted about 17 to 20 percent of the Jewish population” of Israel. Laws favoring religious Jews in Israel have led to an astounding growth in the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox population—and in the spread of religious practices and attitudes. “From the early 1950s to the mid-2000s, the [Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox] have grown from approximately “10 percent to at least a quarter of the [Israeli] Jewish population, about 1.5 million people.” The percentage of Jewish citizens who “would choose halakhic [religious] law over any competing democratic standard” approximates 35 percent. Interestingly, the same proportion wants the state “to support the emigration of Arab citizens” and “would have Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, Yigal Amir, pardoned.”
    link to

  5. For years I have been trying to find out whether those million “Israelis living abroad” (emigrants?) are included in the official “population of Israel”.

    BTW, the first three pdf links in the article did not work for me.

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