Libmonster ID: EE-658
Author(s) of the publication: N. A. SEMENCHENKO

Modern Israeli society is basically a society of displaced persons. It was formed and continues to be formed as a result of the immigration from all continents of the world of hundreds of thousands of Jews who remain faithful to the common religious and cultural tradition and at the same time largely assimilated the way of life and culture of the peoples among whom they lived.

The first waves of immigration began long before the establishment of the State of Israel. At the end of the 19th century, the Jewish population of Palestine was 25,000. Before 1948 , 626,000 Jews arrived in Palestine legally and illegally, 1 including 52,350 from tsarist Russia and the USSR. After the creation of an independent state, the immigration flow was not interrupted, although it was uneven. In the first 20 years of Israel's existence, more than 1.25 million Jews arrived in the country, mainly from Eastern and Central Europe, North Africa and the Arab countries of the Middle East. After a certain "immigration surge" associated with the six-day war in 1967, there was a decline, which practically persisted until the end of the 80s. Thus, until mid-1989, only 1,828,122 people moved to Israel, of which 215,954 were immigrants from the USSR .2 Mass immigration from the former USSR, which began in late 1989, increased the population of Israel by 836,173 people. Thus, the number of immigrants from Russia and the former USSR who moved to Israel from the beginning of the century to 1999 inclusive was 1,091,545 people. For comparison, about 350 thousand people arrived from North Africa (mainly after the creation of the State of Israel); from North America-about 108 thousand; from South Africa-11 thousand; from Ethiopia-57 thousand; from Argentina-55,700, etc.

The economic and political development of the State of Israel and the social life of the country are largely linked to immigration flows, regardless of the country of origin, their number and specific features. Each such stream represents a meeting of representatives of two social systems with their own demographic, economic, political and cultural characteristics. However, a closer look at the immigration of the 1990s to Israel reveals an unprecedented phenomenon in its complexity, determined by several, sometimes closely related, factors. Due to its peculiarities, the recent immigration wave made a special contribution to the economic development of the country in a short time, had a serious impact on the balance of domestic political forces and took a worthy place in the cultural life of Israeli society.

"Immigration-90", or "Russian immigration", as it is often called, not only significantly increased the population of Israel, but also qualitatively different-

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It differs from previous immigration flows. Let's try to consider some features of this immigration wave.

The very name - "Russian aliyah" - indicates its main feature. This is the relocation of a huge mass of people from almost one state (the former Soviet Union), 80% of which (and at the first stage even more) They come from the European part of the Soviet Union. It should be borne in mind that we are talking about a group that makes up a significant percentage of the population of Israel. As early as 1991, new arrivals made up about 10% of the Jewish population of Israel as a whole, and now their share has grown to 20% .3

So, new arrivals to Israel in the 90s are people who speak the same language - Russian, represent the same socio-social system, have received education in accordance with the same standards, and are united by almost common or similar cultural values.

At the same time, this immigration wave has a number of socio-demographic features that have an impact on its adaptation and integration in the new society. These features include, first of all, the composition of families. Among immigrants, there is a relatively low percentage of children (20%) and a correspondingly high percentage of older people. This is especially noticeable in comparison with the age composition of the Israeli population (children under the age of 14 make up 29% of the total population). The average immigrant family consists of 2-3 people, which is lower than the corresponding Israeli indicator. In addition, the family often includes the parents of the spouses, which is not customary in Israel. The question of family composition is quite important, since it is directly related to one of the main issues of adaptation - the solution of the housing issue.

For the State, a significant number of small families means that it is necessary to provide more housing units. On the other hand, small families are more independent, mobile, and less demanding. 5 years after their arrival in Israel, 53% of the 1990 immigrants owned apartments, while 42% of this year's immigrants rented apartments on the private real estate market4 .

Israeli law does not impose any restrictions on the number of Jews who want to come to Israel, so the immigration of the 90s became a kind of mass resettlement of Jewish families, as a result of which the age structure of Soviet Jewry was more or less reproduced in Israel. Thus, about 34% of immigrants are over 45 years of age; of these, 14% are over 65 years of age (the same groups in the Jewish population of Israel in 1989 were 26% and 10%, respectively) .5

A high percentage of older people means a significant percentage of retirees who receive subsidized housing and are more likely to need regular medical care, as well as a large number of those who do not make up the country's labor force. Another point to note is that older people are unlikely to speak, read, or write Hebrew fluently, meaning they will not be able to communicate with the native Israeli population. After a 3.5-year stay in Israel, 64% of immigrants in 1991 and 1995 communicated mainly in Russian. Hebrew was used mostly or completely by 7% and 6% of new arrivals, respectively, 6 and it is significant that a significant part of the older generation who do not speak Hebrew plays a major role in the upbringing of their grandchildren.

The age structure of new arrivals is also directly related to the socio-political life of the country. The electoral potential of "Russian" immigrants is higher than their share among the population. Thus, immigrants from 1989-1995 comprised

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11 % of the total number of Israelis, but the percentage of those who participated in the vote from this group, according to various estimates, was not 11, but 15% .7

Another demographic-related issue that the Israeli Government has had to deal with as part of its policy of accepting immigrants: among new arrivals from the USSR and former Soviet Union republics, women make up a relatively high percentage compared to their percentage among the Jewish population of Israel proper. Between 1990 and 1995, 40,000 more women arrived in Israel than men, i.e., there were 878 men for every 1,000 women, while at the end of 1989, there were 988 men for every 1,000 women in the Jewish population of Israel .8

Israel is also not characterized by such a large number of single-parent families (3.2% of the total number of immigrant families compared to the Israeli figure of 2.7%), and especially those headed by women. Even less typical is the large number of divorced women. In 1995, 15% of newly arrived women were divorced, compared to 3.4% of the local Jewish population (in 1989) .9

Although the status of a divorced woman or the head of a single-parent family makes her independent and socially more active, it is accompanied not only by considerable economic difficulties, but also by social and moral discomfort. In Israel, such female "independence" is ambiguously perceived by society.

Another significant feature of the immigration wave of the 90s is the level of education of immigrants and their professional training. Jews in the USSR were mostly part of the upper and middle professional class due to the high percentage of those who received a higher education. In the USSR, they were doctors, teachers, engineers, scientists and cultural workers, which, according to the researcher of this problem, M. Solodkina, provided them with a "normal standard of living for the USSR" until 1992 .10

The "Russians" who came to Israel also had a higher level of education than the host society. 56% of immigrants (data for 1995) had at least 13 years of education, while on the eve of the immigration wave, only 28% of Israelis had the same educational level. Among immigrants from the Central Asian republics of the former USSR, this percentage was slightly lower than from European countries, but nevertheless higher than among Israelis .11

Another feature of former Soviet citizens was the high level of employment among both men and women. Before coming to Israel, almost all able-bodied men and women worked. At the same time, about two-thirds of the employees were employed in the scientific and research sphere, had free and technical professions. So, 73 thousand immigrants are engineers and architects, 33.6 thousand are teachers and teachers, 15.2 thousand are doctors and dentists, 16.1 thousand are nurses and health workers, 12 thousand are scientists and researchers, 15.1 thousand are art workers, musicians, etc. 12 .

The share of such professions among immigrants who make up the new labor force, and their absolute number, significantly exceeded the needs of the Israeli economy, which created additional problems for the state.

The high educational and professional level of the new immigrants was also combined with their high cultural level. Most immigrants, and not only from the Russian Federation, consider themselves carriers of Russian culture. When they arrived in Israel, they did not abandon the culture of their country of origin and continued to see Russian / Soviet culture as a vital part of their identity.-

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3. It is known that a significant part of Soviet Jews were famous writers, poets, journalists, actors, theater and film directors, press and show business figures, i.e. Jews who were the best representatives of the Russian intelligentsia and took an active part in the creation of Russian / Soviet culture of the XX century. Once in Israel, they not only continued to maintain a strong connection with the Russian cultural tradition, but also "resisted attempts to forcibly assimilate them into Israeli culture." 13

Against the background of the close connection with Russian culture, the limited identification of "Russian" immigrants with Judaism is particularly noticeable. They don't know much about Jewish tradition and culture. According to L. Remennik ," more than 90% of new repatriates are non - Believers who identify themselves as Jews mainly on ethnic grounds " 14 .

The social and social status, financial situation and weak connection with the Jewish tradition of new arrivals in Israel to some extent influenced the attitude of the host society towards them.

Some Israeli researchers 15 tend to view the immigration of the 1990s not as "aliyah", but as a regular migration. The immigrants of the last wave, in their opinion, are not the "poor" Soviet Jews who suffered from anti-Semitism. The main motive that motivated the immigrants of the 90s was not so much the desire to come to Israel, but rather the desire to leave the Soviet Union, and later the CIS. The majority of immigrants, according to these researchers, preferred to go to the United States or other Western countries. However, the existing difficulties in obtaining entry visas to these countries, which simultaneously introduced strict quotas or completely closed entry for immigrants from the USSR, on the one hand, and the Israeli "open door" policy, on the other, played a decisive role. According to the results of surveys conducted in 1993 among potential immigrants, the main factors contributing to the decision to emigrate were economic (59%) and political (20%) 16 .

The qualitative and quantitative features of "Russian" immigration required the Government of Israel to make urgent changes in the state policy on the adaptation of immigrants.

Israel was not prepared to accept so many immigrants. In 1990 and 1991, 185 and 148 thousand people arrived, respectively. Then, until 1996, 65 thousand arrived per year, and in 1997 - 55 thousand. The mass of immigrants who arrived in the first two years and the lack of information on the extent of immigration in subsequent years made it very difficult for the Israeli authorities to develop special measures to accept new arrivals. The Government did not have any long-term programs, apparatus, or appropriate mechanism to facilitate their adaptation. Only since 1992, when the flow of immigrants has stabilized, has this process become more orderly.

New approaches to the policy of integrating" Russian " immigrants into Israeli society were based on the so-called "direct absorption"program developed in 1987. The essence of this program was to provide a new migrant with the opportunity to freely choose a temporary place of residence with compensation for part of the housing costs, as well as to grant him the right to receive a "basket" of certain services and a cash allowance, called the "basket of absorption".

Starting in July 1990, the bulk of immigrants went through the path of "direct absorption", and all those who arrived after that received an "absorption basket". This path made it much easier for the Government to solve the problem of housing and employment of new arrivals. According to surveys conducted among immigrants, a high degree of participation of relatives and friends in the process was noted

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According to the respondents themselves, it was this factor that most helped them survive all the difficulties associated with the immigration process.

Taking into account the fact that almost all new arrivals were Russian-speaking, the Ministry of Immigration Absorption began to produce a wide variety of reference and information literature for new immigrants in Russian. Moreover, soon signs appeared in various state and municipal institutions, banks, and shopping centers: "They speak Russian here."

The labor market in Israel was also not ready to accept an immigration wave of this magnitude. However, taking into account the high scientific and professional level of immigrant scientists, in the field of employment, special emphasis was placed on the priority and maximum use of scientists and scientific and technical personnel, whose share among new immigrants, as already noted, was significantly higher than in previous immigration flows.

Among the immigrants who arrived in 1989-1995, about 10,000 were identified as "scientists". Until 1997, 11,750 scientists came to Israel. They faced serious difficulties when applying for a job. In addition to the difficulties associated with the migration process itself, they were faced with the need to adapt to the new realities of scientific life in Israel, based mainly on Western values. They also faced difficulties related to the lack of knowledge of the language (Hebrew and English), the new procedure for presenting scientific and research projects, etc.

This social group, which was considered "exceptional human capital", could not enter the labor market without government support. There is a perception in government institutions that unemployment among scientists and the misuse of their scientific potential may mean that Israel is missing out on a rare opportunity to accept a workforce with a high level of technological expertise, and this, in turn, will deter other scientists from coming to Israel or encourage them to leave the country. Therefore, several programs have been developed to assist scientists. A number of ministries participated in the implementation of these programs: immigration absorption; science; trade and industry, as well as Israeli universities and a number of research institutes.

However, the majority of immigrants were not given such attention by the government. Active assistance to the remaining immigrants was provided by local municipalities, voluntary organizations, as well as some public organizations, including the Zionist Forum and the Public Council for the Protection of Jews of the Soviet Union. The Zionist Forum brought together immigrant organizations that operated throughout the country. As early as 1993, there were 38 of them, including clubs, public associations, mutual aid organizations, professional unions, associations of people from a particular city (such as fellow countrymen), associations of Russian-language publishing houses, etc.In 1996-1997, about 300 organizations and associations of "Russian" immigrants received official recognition.

Reducing the share of the Ministry of Absorption in the assistance provided to immigrants has weakened their dependence on the authorities in general, while at the same time giving them greater independence. The path of "direct absorption" provided to them seemed to release the official authorities from responsibility for the fate of the immigrant in the first stages and put this responsibility on the immigrant himself and on the informal organizations that supported him. This separation, combined with the qualitative and quantitative characteristics of this immigration wave, has created a huge demand for the Russian-language press in Israel. In ten years, the Russian-language press has made an unprecedented leap: from one daily newspaper to another

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the number of Russian-language publications increased in the late 1990s to 50 newspapers and other periodicals at the national and local levels.

The demand for information among "Russians" is partially offset by the Israeli radio station REKA, which broadcasts mainly in Russian, as well as by Israeli television, which regularly hosts programs in Russian. Cable TV makes available to Russian-speaking immigrants three Russian TV channels (ORT, RTR and NTV).

Thanks to the new technologies of the late 20th century, which actually created new models of social behavior, 17 "Russian" immigrants in Israel, while maintaining close kinship and social ties with their country of origin, are able to live in two countries at the same time. They may not feel disconnected from their old "homeland" and at the same time not be isolated in the new "homeland". This condition gives them strength and confidence to integrate into their host society.

Features of "immigration-1990" and ways of its adaptation distinguish it from other immigration flows. The immigration wave of the 1990s turned Russian Jews into the second largest sub-ethnic group after those born in Israel.

"Russian" immigrants, like other residents of the CIS, perceived the Soviet Union as a kind of empire. The international status of the USSR gave them confidence that they lived in one of the largest powers in the world, which makes a great contribution to the development of science, culture and the establishment of norms of international life. This feeling has remained with them, despite the changes that have taken place in the world. The newcomers perceived Israel as a small state with a somewhat provincial culture. At the same time, from the point of view of old - time Israelis, new immigrants from the USSR/CIS did not adhere to generally accepted behavioral stereotypes: they did not recognize the superiority of local norms and principles of communication and local culture, and did not show a willingness to adapt to the Israeli reality .18

Immigration 1990, with all its peculiarities, laid the foundation for the formation of a new community in Israel. During the first five years, when about half a million immigrants from the former USSR arrived in Israel, signs of organized community life began to emerge. The intelligentsia played a significant role in this process, representing a significant group among immigrants and exerting a significant influence on the process of social and cultural integration of Russian Jews.

The number of immigrants who arrived in Israel during the 1990s - about 1 million people-is a critical mass that can form a variety of elites - political, business, cultural, which ensure the preservation of traditions and continuity of the lifestyle of immigrants from the CIS countries. In just 7 to 8 years (1989-1996), a Russian - speaking community was formed in Israel with its own political representation at all levels of government, the press and publications, and a rich infrastructure-informal and formal .19 A community that has managed to prove not only the ability to control its own destiny, but also in many ways set the tone in relations with the host society.


1 Statistical Abstract of Israel. Jerusalem. 1996. P. 46.

2 Vesti. 02.01.2000.

Lisitsa S., Perez I. 3 Problems of self-identification of immigrants from Soviet Union/CIS in Israel and their relationship with the natives of the country // Migration processes and their impact on Israeli society. M., 2000. S. 244.

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4 For data on arrivals in September 1991, see: Immigrant Absorption. Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. Israel, 1997. P. 13 (in Hebrew).

Sikron M. 5 Demography of the immigration wave / / Portrait of the immigration wave. The process of immigrant Absorption from the former Soviet Union, 1990-1995 / Ed. Sikron M. and Leshem E. Jerusalem, 1998. p. 13 (in Hebrew).

6 Data on arrivals in September 1991 and January-March 1995: Immigrant Absorption 1998. Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. Israel, 1999. P. 26 (in Hebrew).

M. Solodkina 7 Civilized discomfort. Soviet Jews in Israel in the 90s. Tel Aviv, 1996, p. 81.

Sikron M., Leshem E. 8 Process of integration of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, 1990-1995: main conclusions / / Portrait of the immigration wave. The process of Immigrant Absorption from the former Soviet Union, 1990-1995 / Ed. Sikron M. and Leshem E. Jerusalem, 1998. p. 446 (in Hebrew).

9 SAI. P. 42-47.

Solodkina M. 10 Decree. op. P. 106.

Sikron M., Leshem E. 11 Edict. op. p. 446.

12 Immigrant Absorption. Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. Israel, 1997. P. 10, 18 (in Hebrew).

Kotik-Fridgut B. 13 Dinamika yazykovoy situatsii i yazykovoy politiki v Israelei [Dynamics of the language situation and language policy in Israel].

Remennik L. 14 Between the old and new motherland // Diasporas. 2000. N 3. Moscow, p. 17.

Sikron M, Leshem E. 15 Edict. op. p. 446.

Bryt Robert. 16 Jewish Emigration from the Former USSR: Who? Why? How Many? / Lewin-Epshtein, Roi Y. And Ritterband P. (eds.). Russian Jews on Three Continents. L., C. 117.

Remennik L. 17 Decree. op. p. 117.

Lisitsa E., Peres I. 18 Edict. op. p. 48.

Leshem E., Lisk M. 19 Formirovanie "russkoy" obshchestva v Izrael '[Formation of the "Russian" community in Israel]. Jerusalem. 2000. N 4. p. 47 (in Hebrew).


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N. A. SEMENCHENKO, 1990S IMMIGRATION TO ISRAEL: SOME SPECIAL FEATURES // Tallinn: Library of Estonia (LIBRARY.EE). Updated: 28.06.2024. URL: (date of access: 15.07.2024).

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