How immigrants from former USSR live in Israel

Twenty years ago, the "big aliyah" was completed in Israel - the mass emigration of Jews from the former Soviet Union. Today there are approximately a million "Russian Israelis" in Israel. The standard of living of returnees could be better. Nearly 15 percent of them do "black" jobs. 36 percent of immigrants from the former Soviet Union do not own homes.

When Israel was created, its population was little over 650,000 people. Mass repatriation of Jews to the country took place in several stages. In the 1940s-50s mostly Ashkenazi who have been persecuted by the Nazis during World War II traveled here. Later they were joined by the Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian Jews who came from African countries recently liberated from of the Jews from the Soviet Union was relatively small. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, thousands of Russian citizens left for a small unknown country, where for several decades the Arab-Israeli war was ongoing.

It should be noted that in 60 years of Israel's existence the motivation of new immigrants who have decided to leave the country of origin for return to their historic homeland has changed. When the new state that had no money or weapons for the army was only starting, the enthusiasts travelled to Palestine at their own risk. Among the settlers who began to fight for the establishment of a Jewish state in the early 20th century, there were many Jewish immigrants from the Russian Empire, including the founding father of Israel, David Ben-Gurion. (1886-1973)

Today, among the returnees there are much fewer people who go to Eretz Yisrael for "the idea." For many Russian Jews repatriation today means the ability to connect with their families or friends. Others come to the country in hopes to improve their financial situation. Some people in Russia are still affected by the trend of going "abroad." Some Russian Jews who immigrated recently there are people who could not find any clear explanation of their departure. Many of them make no secret of their admiration for the high standard of living in Israel. However, no benefits and allowances for new arrivals guaranteed by rigid social policies of Netanyahu contribute to solving the problems of adaptation to new conditions. As a rule, the "Russians" are very cordially greeted by their countrymen, have full support and assistance. For hundreds and thousands of new immigrants it ends there. They become part of the "Russian street." We are talking about people who did not become Israelis and are working in construction or security making Israeli minimum wage.

Breaking out of the poverty of provincial cities of Russia and Ukraine, new immigrants of the 1990s initially enjoyed unexpectedly high wages and benefits. Their illusions were soon "dispelled" by the harsh reality. Renting an apartment in Israel is very expensive, let alone buying your own apartment. With the continuing growth in property prices Russian Israelis have to rent small apartments for several people. The surveys conducted by sociologists among Russian immigrants in recent years clearly demonstrate that even today the living standards of immigrants from Russia and the CIS are low. A study of social structure and the welfare of the community was conducted in September 2011 and published on a news site Nearly 80 percent of respondents are employed, 13 percent live on welfare, and only 7.5 percent are entrepreneurs. Approximately 15 percent of new immigrants are doing low-paid jobs. 36 percent of the total number of immigrants from the former Soviet Union do not own real estate and are forced to rent an apartment or room. Many of them live in rented apartments in the most deprived areas, mainly in the south of Israel.

However, among the thinking part of the intellectuals there is a large number of people who did not wish to remain "at the bottom" has emerged. To integrate into Israeli society they had to learn Hebrew and earn an additional degree. Thousands of people have taken all sorts of courses and entered universities.

The relations between the newcomers with the local population were not easy. Jews that newly arrived from Russia are considered by the native Israelis the representatives of the "sausage Aliyah." In other words, the detractors considered the Russian "freeloaders." The locals did not hide their indignation about the fact that the Russians continued to communicate in their native language and for the most part did not observe religious practices of Judaism. Only twenty years after the beginning of the "big aliyah" (1990-1992), local residents began to get used to the Russian language in the streets of Israeli cities.

However, the main competition was waged in the early 1990s in the information field. Among the Russian immigrants there were many writers, translators and journalists able to make an effort to create their own media. The main mouthpiece of the Russian community was 9 channel ITV. The journalists managed to defend the right to broadcast in Russian. In addition, some local radio stations such as "Kol Yisrael" were broadcasting in Russian.

Recently, the Russian language began to be taught in Israeli schools as a foreign language. On January 4 at the meeting of the committee on Education, Culture and Sport, it was decided to launch a pilot project starting September of 2012, under which it will be possible to take Russian as a second foreign language at school, reported information portal In the 2011-2012 academic year, the Russian language was taught in over 150 schools in Israel, and the total number of students studying it was 7,500. The bill was enforced due to the efforts of Member of Knesset of Yisrael Beiteinu party Alex Miller striving for the preservation of Russian culture in the country.

Today, the interests of the Russian-speaking community in Israel are defended by multiple parties and public organizations at various levels. It would seem that there is no reason to talk about the infringement of the rights of the Russians in Eretz Yisrael. However, there are a number of unresolved economic and social problems of the "Russian street" ignored by the government. In the 1990s the government encouraged the mass immigration of Jews from Russia and the CIS. Nevertheless, the housing issue has not been given due attention. The labor market situation also does not contribute to the prosperity of the Russian immigrants. Under these conditions, "Russian Street" will continue to support the movement of social protest that can only worsen this summer.

Yuri Sosinsky-Semikhat


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov