Tony Greenstein | 01 September 2015 | Post Views:

Why more Jews leave Israel than enter each year

Ben-Gurion Airport
The  Bigot’s Poster is aimed at African Jews in Israel

interesting article from 2011 which I’ve just seen.  Despite having longed for a Jewish state for
over 2,000 years, according to the Zionist myth, over 1 million of the ingrates
have nonetheless packed their bags and headed for Western Europe, the United
States and elsewhere.

What is
particularly interesting is that nearly half of Israeli youth would prefer to
live somewhere else if they could. And ironically, one of the most prized passports
that Israelis can obtain is a German passport. 
So much so that a few years ago, Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy
made a trip to Germany, the sole purpose of which was to persuade Germany not
to admit Jews as citizens.
Fluctuating Jewish population in Europe
Over more
than six decades of statehood, successive Israeli governments have repeatedly
stressed the centrality of Jewish immigration and the Law of Return of all Jews
to Israel for the well-being, security, and survival of the nation. Yet while
much is published on Jewish immigration to Israel, considerably less
information is available about Jewish emigration from Israel.
The Departure Board at Ben-Gurion

estimates of the numbers of Israelis residing abroad vary greatly due mainly to
the lack of an adequate recording system. Consequently, scholars and
others have questioned the accuracy of government figures. Besides the
statistical and methodological shortcomings, the number of Israeli expatriates
is open to considerable debate and controversy because of its enormous
demographic, social, and political significance both within and outside Israel.
At the
lower end is the official estimate of 750,000 Israeli emigrants — 10 percent of
the population — issued by the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, which
is about the same as that for Mexico, Morocco, and
Sri Lanka. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government places the current
number of Israeli citizens living abroad in the range of 800,000 to 1 million,
representing up to 13 percent of the population, which is relatively high among OECD
Consistent with this latter figure is the estimated 1 million Israelis in the
Diaspora reported at the first-ever global conference of Israelis living abroad, held
in this January.
estimates of Israelis living abroad are substantially higher than those for the
past. During Israel’s first decade, some 100,000 Jews are believed to have
Israel. By 1980, Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics estimated
Israelis living abroad for more than a year, or 7 percent of the population.
Several decades later, the number of Israeli emigrants had swelled to about 550,000 — or almost
double the proportion at the end of the 1950s.
Spanish Synagogue – Spain is issuing passports to Jews who fled the Inquisition
Of the
Israelis currently residing abroad, roughly 60 percent are believed
to have settled in North America, a quarter in Europe, and 15 percent
distributed across the rest of the world. It is estimated that about 45 percent of the adult Israeli expatriates
have completed at least a university degree, in contrast to 22
of the
Israeli population. The Israeli emigrants are
to be
disproportionately secular, liberal, and cosmopolitan. Furthermore, the
emigrants are generally younger than the immigrants to Israel, especially those
from the former Soviet Union, hastening the aging of Israel’s population.
The often-cited
Israeli emigration center on seeking better living and financial conditions,
employment and professional opportunities, and higher education, as well as
pessimism regarding prospects for peace. Consistent with these motives, one of
the most frequently given
explanations for leaving Israel
is: “The question is not why we left, but why
it took us so long to do so.” And recent opinion polls find that almost half of Israeli
youth would prefer to live somewhere else if they had the chance. Again, the
most often-cited reason to emigrate is because the situation in Israel is
viewed as “not good.”
important factor contributing to the outflow of Jewish Israelis is previous
emigration experience. As 40 percent of Jewish Israelis are foreign-born,
emigration is nothing new for many in the country. Moreover, as Israeli
emigrants cannot yet vote from abroad, they are likely to feel marginalized
from mainstream Israeli society, further contributing to their decision to
remain abroad as well as attracting others to do the same. Whether the
Netanyahu government’s effort in the Knesset to approve a bill granting voting
rights to Israelis living abroad will slow the trend is uncertain.
Adding to
emigration pressures, many Israelis have already taken preliminary steps to
eventually leaving. One
close to 60 percent of Israelis had approached or were intending to approach a
foreign embassy to ask for citizenship and a passport. An estimated 100,000
Israelis have German passports, while more are applying for passports based on
their German ancestry. And a large number of Israelis have dual nationality,
including an
Israelis holding U.S. passports (with close to a quarter-million pending
projections show that Jewish Israelis will remain the large majority in Israel
for the foreseeable future. However, it will be a challenge for Jewish
Israelis to maintain their current dominant majority of approximately 75
percent, primarily due to higher fertility among non-Jewish Israelis — nearly
one child per woman greater — the depletion of the large pool of likely
potential Jewish immigrants, and large-scale Jewish Israeli emigration.
Consequently, demographic projections expect the Jewish proportion of the
country — which peaked at 89 percent in 1957 — to continue declining over the
coming decades, approaching a figure closer to two-thirds of the population by
emigration of a large proportion of a country’s population, especially the
well-educated and highly skilled, poses serious challenges for any nation.
However, large-scale emigration is particularly problematic for Israel given
its relatively small population, unique ethnic composition, and regional
political context.
not only is Israeli emigration increasing
the influence
of the
orthodox Jewish communities, it is also boosting the need for temporary,
non-Jewish foreign workers, especially in agriculture, construction, and
care-giving. The presence of more than 200,000 foreign workers — nearly half of
whom are unauthorized and mainly from Asia (in particular Thailand and the
Philippines, but also increasingly from Africa) — is also contributing to the
changing ethnic
of the
departure of Jewish Israelis also contributes to the undermining of the Zionist
ideology. If large numbers of Jewish Israelis are opting to emigrate, why would
Jews who are well integrated and accepted in other countries immigrate to
Israel? Furthermore, up to a quarter of young Israelis in Europe marry outside
their faith. The majority do not belong to a Jewish community and do not
participate in any Jewish activities. As with other expatriate groups in
Western nations, Israelis living abroad often profess their intention to
return. However, Israeli emigrants are likely to remain in their adopted countries
insofar as they and their families have become successfully settled and
governments have already consistently

immigration levels as too low and emigration levels as too high. In addition to
policies encouraging immigration for permanent settlement, Israel has programs
and media campaigns actively promoting the return of Israelis residing
overseas. The government also maintains connections with the country’s
expatriates through mandatory registration in its consulates overseas and
outreach programs and activities — and provides counseling, guidance, financial
assistance, and tax benefits to returning citizens.
these efforts, it is doubtful based on past and current trends that these
various incentives and appeals will be sufficient to entice the return of the
million missing Israelis. Large-scale emigration has not only resulted in
critical demographic and socioeconomic imbalances in the country, but more
importantly poses grave political challenges and jeopardizes the basic Jewish
character and integrity of Israel.

Chamie is research director at the Center for Migration Studies, and Barry
Mirkin is an independent consultant.

Bye, the Beloved Country –
Why Almost 40 Percent of Israelis Are Thinking of Emigrating

According to a new survey,
more than a third of Israelis would leave the country if they could, citing
economic opportunities as the main reason. Who are the wannabe leavers, and
what can be done to induce them to stay?

Sivan Klingbail and
Shanee Shiloh Ha’aretz Dec 15, 2012
The idea of emigrating from Israel is present at every
family dinner in the home of Shirlee (Haaretz has her full name), a scientist
from the center of the country. More accurately, it’s conspicuous by the
absence of two of her three sons. Her eldest son, Nir, 28, left Israel last February
to join his brother Idan, 27, in Toronto, where he’s been living since
completing his compulsory army service. The youngest brother is about to begin
his military service.
The sons’ move was gradual. Idan went to Toronto to study
and worked as a security guard for El Al while he was in university. He also
became involved in the Jewish community and received a job offer from a large
local company. According to Shirlee, “He had many opportunities there to
develop personally and professionally, without begging and without favors, so
he decided to stay.”
His older brother joined him because he felt, as his mother
puts it, that “no one cared about him here. The people that get preferred are
the ones who don’t serve, don’t contribute and don’t work, and in the end there
is the difficulty of finding a job that suits his skills and will give him and
his future family a decent living.”
But even though Shirlee is able to identify with her son’s
feelings, she regrets his choice. “We did not educate our children to leave,”
she says. “We are very involved and active socially, and we find it sad that
they do not see their future in this country.”
Shirlee’s sons have not yet declared that they never intend
to return, but she is afraid they will find it hard to come back. For her, it’s
an ideological crisis. “We educated them that this is our home and our country,
and that it’s wrong to give up your country. For us as parents, it is very
difficult. We are left alone and it also involves a breakdown of values. This
was not our dream.”
In any event, Shirlee believes it’s the partner of each of
her sons who will be the one to decide whether they return.
In her opinion, Israel’s finest sons and daughters are the
ones leaving the country. “They are good, high-quality people who can
contribute — from doctors and nurses to engineers. The emigration phenomenon
here was once branded ‘a fallout of cowards’ [by Yitzhak Rabin], but these days
the people who are leaving are talented. They stand out abroad. They are
considered smart and successful compared to the Canadians. Many don’t come

Shirlee’s gut analysis is interesting against the backdrop
of a survey conducted for Haaretz by the market-research firm Meida Shivuki
C.I., under the management of Noam Raz and Merav Shapira. The survey found that
37 percent of Israelis are considering a move to a different country at some
time in the future. At the same time, it’s noteworthy than only 2 percent of
those surveyed said they are certain they will leave Israel — it’s only a
matter of time.
The primary reason the potential emigrants cite is the
difficulty of getting ahead economically in Israel — cited by 55 percent of
those considering emigration. Raz terms this notion a “fantasy.” “We want to
think we have a way out of here, but only 2 percent really intend to leave,” he
Fantasy or reality, the fact cannot be ignored that many
Israelis want, at some level, to live elsewhere. The tendency to consider
leaving is most prominent among voters for center and left-of-center parties;
the 30-49 age group; secular, salaried individuals; as well as among
inhabitants of the south of the country and the Greater Tel Aviv area.
It’s important to point out that both the research for the
article and the survey were carried out before Operation Pillar of Defense in
the Gaza Strip last month, though the military escalation in the south was
already intensifying and the winds of a potential war against Iran were blowing
Equally important, however, is the fact that, according to
various data, most of those who are thinking of leaving are not motivated by
the security situation — in fact, it’s the exact opposite. When the security
threat mounts, the Israeli public views leaving as treason, and few emigrate at
such times. Indeed, according to the researchers, few Israelis leave for
ideological reasons, such as the occupation, antidemocratic legislation or even
the emergency call-up orders, which have been widespread in recent years.
According to the State of the Nation Report for 2011-2012,
published last month by the Taub Center for Social Policy Studies in Israel,
the situation of the country’s young working families has worsened in the past
five years (not taking into account Arab and Jewish ultra-Orthodox families,
whose situation has been even more aggravated).
Figures issued by the Organization of Economic Cooperation
and Development, of which Israel is a member, show that Israel is lagging in
most of the relevant indices. For example, Israel is 29th out of 36 countries
in terms of investment in education. In health investment, Israel is third from
last. Israel is in 25th place in the quality-of-life index and in last place in
terms of government administration.
“What’s happening today in Israel recalls the process
undergone by Jerusalem,”
says Tomer Treves, a cofounder of URU (Wake Up), an
association that promotes a civil agenda for the country. Jerusalem, he
explains, “lives every possible conflict every day. Those who left the city
over the years were people able to make a living, and the city grew poor.
Without state funding it would not be sustainable.”
Treves terms this “the moving of the capable.” People are
leaving, he says, “because of what became of the Zionist idea. The moment the
tie with Israel is weakened, the point of remaining is measured by the quality
of life, and Israel is not in a good place from that point of view.”

Indeed, the Haaretz survey shows clearly that voters for
right-wing parties and people who are religiously traditional or Orthodox tend
to say that they will not leave because Israel is the central place of the
Jewish people. Not everyone who took part in the survey would agree with that
proposition. Treves: “The right and the left in present-day Israel are in
dispute over one issue: where on our scale of identity we place Jewish
identity. The more of a humanist and liberal you are, the lower you situate
your Jewish identity. It’s been like that ever since Benjamin Netanyahu
whispered into the ear of [the late kabbalist] Rabbi Kaduri, ‘The leftists have
forgotten what it is to be Jewish.’”

Many of those who categorize themselves as belonging to the
political center or left will probably reject that claim (maybe even angrily).
Nevertheless, a chasm seems to have opened between their conception of what it
means to be Jewish and the way they grasp the state’s conception of what it
means to be Jewish. The moment the decision to live in Israel is no longer
based on values, economic parameters enter the equation — at which point no
few Israelis think their future lies in other, greener pastures.
Yes, it’s the economy. A graph published by Prof. Sergio
DellaPergola, from the Institute of Contemporary Jewry at the Hebrew University
of Jerusalem, in the online journal Hagira (Migration) shows a rise in
emigration from Israel in recent years. DellaPergola’s research was based on
the data for departures from the country as compared with arrivals. His
conclusion: in 2011, approximately 14,000 Israelis left the country and did not
At the same time, DellaPergola hastens to point out that
the situation in Italy, where he was born, and in other Western countries is
more acute. “I spent two months in Italy last summer,” he says. “The situation
there is far more serious, particularly in terms of unemployment. The jobless
rate is 9 percent for the country as a whole, but 34 percent among young
people. Here in Israel, many people in the young age groups are working,
whereas many in Italy have nothing. Even people in their late thirties are out
of work. They do not marry and they live with their parents.”

Insurance policy
According to research done by Yossi Harpaz for his M.A.
thesis in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University,
in 2007 more than 100,000 Israelis also held citizenship of countries in
Central and Eastern Europe, twice as many as in 2000. Obtaining a foreign
passport is considered a type of insurance policy rather than indicating an
intention to emigrate. Also noteworthy is the ethnic identity of those who are
getting the European passports: they are the children and grandchildren of people
of European descent – generally speaking, Ashkenazim.

“It might not be politically correct to say this, but the
Ashkenazim have been transformed from being identified with the state into a
segment of their own,”
says Noam Manella, a strategic consultant and lecturer
in Israel and abroad about the effects of Generation Y –people born from the
early 1980s — on organizations and society. “The Ashkenazim have become one
more population sector, like the ultra-Orthodox, the Arabs and the Russians,”
he says. “Many Ashkenazim like to say humorously, ‘We have become a negligible
minority in Israel,’ and then go on to ask themselves, ‘What connects me to the
People today are looking for belonging based on fields of interest
and life values, not only national belonging. If I feel alienated, then it’s
preferable to feel that way in a more comfortable location — one that also
offers me diverse and interesting possibilities for professional development. A
young Israeli start-up person can feel more of a kinship with an American
counterpart in Silicon Valley than with the neighbor across the hall.”
The reason the local connection has become weakened,
Manella says, is because the state itself unraveled the thread that links it to
its citizens, in a decades-long process. He cites unequal army service,
religious radicalization, the economic abandonment of the disadvantaged, and
sweeping privatization.
The country has become more religious, he believes, and
people who define themselves as liberals are finding it more difficult to
connect with it. Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, he adds, is trying to deepen
people’s connection with the state but is doing so by evoking controversial
symbols, such as sending schoolchildren on mandatory visits to Rachel’s Tomb in
the territories. “That is a big mistake in terms of understanding the new ties
that link people in the open world,”
Manella says.
The solution, he says, entails a renewed sense of
belonging, which he considers a national mission: “At one time, people were
connected through large national symbols, but today the only thing that can
create the connection is mutual commitment, and the state has to seize that —
equality in bearing the burden. The existential danger that once connected us
is now separating us. That’s because the state has failed to generate
compensation or a fair exchange for the existential problem in our region. The
classic mistake is to try to connect people to the state through patriotic
symbols, when what they are looking for is mutual commitment,”
he concludes.
Glass ceiling
When it comes to the reverse direction of migrants – into
the country – Israel occupies a special place. It’s seventh in terms of the
number of immigrants in the country relative to population size. As a whole,
the phenomenon of migration between countries has been growing in recent years.
According to United Nations Population Division figures, in 2010 there were 214
million people living in a country different from the one in which they were
born – an increase of 25 million in a decade.
In short, Prof. DellaPergola says, the rise in migration is
a global phenomenon. “Switzerland has a higher emigration rate than Israel,” he
notes. “Switzerland seems like an ideal country and its population is roughly
the same size as Israel’s. The explanation for the leaving phenomenon there is
the limitations caused by size. The result is an employment problem for
talented people, who can easily find jobs abroad.”
In Della Pergola’s view, the limitations imposed by size in
Israel are more significant and make many Israelis feel they have reached their
own glass ceiling. He chooses to illustrate his analysis from his own milieu,
the academic world. “It frustrates me as an academic to see the number of
available teaching positions shrinking,” he says. “That is the problem faced by
small countries.”

Israel’s mobility index for academics is very developed,
DellaPergola says, owing largely to the large-scale cooperation with
universities abroad. “Researchers nowadays talk about multinationalism,” he
says. “Most of us have more than one significant attachment in life, even
though for most of us the center of gravity lies in one location. Every
emigrant can visit Israel 20 times a year if he wants. That influences the way
we identify migrants.”

Despite the world trend and the fact that people with a
good education get job offers abroad, Della Pergola believes that Israel can
cope with the problem. “Policy in this regard needs to be reinforced,” he says.
We need to think more about suitable opportunities for the population
structure here. When there is an educated population, as in Israel, the society
needs solutions of employment for the educated. Research and development should
be expanded.”

In any event, DellaPergola emphasizes that Israeli society
continues to be very optimistic. He draws on UN data, which are untainted by
bias, he points out. “The situation should be grasped as an opportunity, not a
calamity. There are people who spend a day here and a day over there, five days
in London and the weekend in Israel. The concept of who is a migrant needs to
be revised accordingly; obstacles have to be removed and help should be given
to those who want to live and work in Israel.”
According to the hard data, the scale of migration in
Israel is three leavers per 1,000 residents. Michal Sabah, a doctoral student
in demographics at the Hebrew University who also works for the Central Bureau
of Statistics, notes that in comparison with developed countries — such as,
among others, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Australia — migration from
Israel is low.
Every society has a migrant profile, she explains. Israel
follows the pattern of other developed countries: the higher the education
level, the greater the likelihood of migration. Holders of doctorates are more
likely to leave than people with high school or lower education.
Earlier studies show that holders of academic degrees are
twice as likely to migrate as high school graduates. “Generally speaking, the
migrants will have a technological education and have a male-dominated
occupation. The prospect of a woman engaged in a ‘male’ occupation migrating is
twice as high as that of a woman who is in a ‘feminine’ or mixed occupation,”

Sabah adds.
The studies on which Sabah draws suggest that Jewish
migrants have cause to be optimistic. Research conducted in the United States,
which is the most popular target country for Jewish migrants, shows that Jews
integrate within a relatively short time and improve their socioeconomic
status. But don’t rush to pack your bags just yet. Sabah emphasizes that “in
any event, 20 percent of the emigrants return to Israel.”

She continues: “Those who leave do so because they can. The
assumption that underlies the theoretical models is that people make decisions
rationally and compare the possibilities that they have in another country.”

It’s more difficult for Israelis to give up the perception
that the country is their home. “Most people do not leave in order to migrate,”
says Prof. Tamar Hermann, from the Open University’s Department of Sociology,
Political Science and Communication. Hermann, who has done considerable
research on the Israeli migration phenomenon, adds that many leave because of a
specific job or for studies, but in some cases extend the time they intended to
devote to that pursuit. “It is not planned migration but an ongoing
development, which in the end comes down to emigration,”
she says. “Few people
pack their life’s belongings in advance with the aim of moving elsewhere
According to Hermann, emigration from Israel is still not
perceived as a success story. “It’s true that there is less criticism of those
who leave. No one will speak of ‘a fallout of cowards’ any longer, but most
[leaving] lead a middling life. They do not feel pride in their success and
instead feel a need to apologize.”
The fact that Israelis tend not to declare their leaving as
an act of emigration is related to their attachment to Israel, even after they
have left. Israelis abroad maintain a warm relationship with Israel, Hermann
notes, and quite a number return because of their children — or, more
accurately, because of the change their children undergo. “The children become
Americans, Canadians or Europeans, and the parents feel they have lost their
common language with them. Israeliness is generally not sustained in the second

Lack of hope
None of this comes as a surprise to Sharon Eyny and Amit
Noy Nevo. A year and a half ago, they founded a company in New York to assist
Israelis who move to the city. The company, called Get it Done NY, helps new
arrivals find housing and a school for their children — in short, to
acclimatize. Nevo and her husband moved to New York in 1997. “We really wanted
to try New York,”
she says. “We were here for our honeymoon, fell in love with
the city and decided to give it a try. We didn’t plan on staying this long,”

she adds.
Eyny went to New York at a far younger age. Her parents
left Israel when she was eight. At 17 she decided to return to Israel, but
after a few years moved back to New York. “We founded the company after we
identified the need for a service like ours,”
Nevo says. “We were both involved
even before. We knew about people who were coming here and that the number was
increasing. We understood that many of them need help.”
As a longtime New Yorker, Eyny says she discerns a change
in the profile of the Israelis coming to the city. “In the past they were in
the 18-30 age bracket. They didn’t have much and came to New York to try their
luck. These days there are a lot more families. That also has to do with the fact
that there are now more options for families. The feeling used to be that New
York is far away, but now people feel that it is much more accessible. To hop
aboard a plane and go to Israel is also no big deal anymore, and people have
more courage to go in the knowledge that they can always go back to visit.”
From conversations with families they have worked with,
Nevo says the main reason people move from Israel to New York is economic.
“These are people who feel they can earn more here than in Israel, and that in
Israel they have run the gamut.” She adds that another reason is higher
education: many people leave, because overseas they can develop academically in
a way that is not possible in Israel. In addition, many of the families that
leave think the educational level in Israel is not up to par.
Ran Harnevo, a high-tech entrepreneur, is much more blunt.
“I have a relatively good excuse for not living in Israel,” he says with a
smile. “We established a start-up in Israel, and after we raised $5 million I
went to New York to develop the business side and get to know the market. That
was four and a half years ago. The company was sold to AOL in 2010, but it’s
still an Israeli-American company, with 70 employees in Israel.”

Harnevo, 38, moved to the United States with his wife; they
now have an American-born daughter. In the period in which they have been
living in New York, the number of Israelis working in the Internet sphere has
grown apace. These days they are known as the “Israeli mafia,” Harnevo laughs.
“There is talk in the city about why there are so many Israelis here,” he says.
We feel the growing desire to move in the form of more relocation requests.
These days, when I think about going back to Israel, the question that comes up
is, What I could do there?
“The Internet has
become one of the big, attractive professions,”
he adds. “It is totally global.
It can’t be managed from Israel. We would not have succeeded if we had tried to
run the company [5min Media] from Israel.”
There are other reasons, too. “The
feeling is that there is economic and political distress in Israel. That the
Israeli middle class — of which I see myself a part — faces two stumbling
blocks: one is the difficulty of being unable to do well economically, due to
an uncompetitive, cartel-driven market; and the other is a lack of hope.

Politically, the discourse is one of despair. It’s a
fanatic, illiberal discourse. An educated secular individual in his thirties,
who is part of the smart, successful Internet industry in Israel, understands
that this same route makes it possible for him to leave Israel.”
The tendency by high-tech people to leave the country seems
clear and natural, but they are not the only ones who are finding work abroad
with comparative ease. Even though the fact that Europe and the United States
are reeling under the impact of the economic crisis would appear to make
immigration more difficult, in practice there are certain professions which are
in high demand abroad. They belong to what has been called the “creative
The term was coined by the American-born economist and
social scientist Richard Florida, as part of a theory he developed about urban
renewal and economic development in post-industrial cities. According to
Florida, cities that are able to attract members of the “creative class” will
enjoy economic prosperity.
Many theoreticians reject his approach, but mayors of many
big cities have warmly adopted it. The result is that the members of
professions that fit the “creative” category — designers, architects,
high-tech personnel and others — are considered desirable and find it easier
to obtain work and residence permits.
Tel Aviv is considered a city that the creative class is
fond of. But, for example, the architects who work for a salary in
architectural firms will find it difficult to pay the city’s high rental fees.
For Israelis, globalization — which is nourishing the interest in the creative
class — has made the perennial question about the difficulty of living outside
Israel almost anachronistic.
Harnevo hesitates for a moment when asked if it was hard
for him to make the decision to live far from his native land. “I think there
is something a little childish about the Israeli narrative,” he says. “The
narrative insists that there is no place like Israel. It’s a powerful narrative
and is implanted in you, but suddenly you discover that it’s not so. There are
places like Israel and the skies do not fall when you leave. Those who go back
do so not because there is no place like Israel, but because it’s their home
and it really is hard to switch homes.”
Point of no return
Conversations about emigration from Israel often come down
to the issue of the brain drain the country is experiencing. “The number of
European university lecturers working in the 40 leading faculties in the United
States is between 0.5 percent and 4 percent. In other words, for every 100
lecturers who work in Germany, 2.9 work in the United States. But for every 100
lecturers working in Israel, there are 25 working in the United States.”
speaker is the economist Prof. Dan Ben-David, who is the executive director of
the Taub Center and teaches in the Department of Public Policy at Tel Aviv
Ben-David conducted a study of the brain-drain phenomenon
five years ago. He explains that although the brain drain to the United States
is not exclusively an Israeli phenomenon, there is nothing like it anywhere
else in the world in terms of its proportions. “There are eight Israelis in the
Computer Sciences Department of Stanford, which is almost a subdepartment,”
says with a half-smile. He is concerned not only about the future of the
universities in Israel but about the country’s character and image as a whole.
“I am apprehensive that we will reach a point of demographic no-return here.
 “Demography refers
not only births but also to those who remain here to live,”
he explains. “At
present, it is still possible to shift the country onto a sustainable track,
but in another decade that will no longer be possible. Today, half the children
in Israel receive a lower-level education than is the case in Third World
countries, and that number is only increasing. That’s what the elections should
be about.”

Does the brain drain exist in fields other than computing?
According to a 2008 paper, written by Profs. Omer Moav and Eric Gould for the
Jerusalem-based Shalem Center, the educated public – those holding a B.A. and
above – are more inclined to emigrate than those with a high school education
or lower. The authors note that more than 2.6 percent of educated, married Jews
in the 25-40 age group were categorized by the Central Bureau of Statistics as
emigrants in 2002, as compared with 1.1 percent among those with lower
Moav and Gould analyzed the data of the 1995 population
census combined with an indication of the status of emigration in 2002. They
add that the percentage of educated young people leaving the country is
significantly higher than their share in the general population. On the basis
of their study, they conclude that Israel and Italy are the only two developed
countries in which the number of educated people emigrating from the country
exceeds the number of educated immigrants entering the country. This is a
migration pattern that is found in poor countries.
Another interesting finding by Moav and Gould concerns the
occupations of those who choose to leave. In first place are senior university
faculty, with a 6.5 percent emigration rate. They are followed by physicians,
at 4.8 percent, and then engineers and scientists (not from universities),
whose emigration rate is slightly above 3 percent. The study found a
correlation between level of education and emigration, primarily among males;
and that holders of an M.A. (or its equivalent in the sciences) are more likely
to emigrate than holders of a B.A. Academics and physicians head the list.
In general, the data on emigration from Israel are
extremely difficult to analyze. Passport control does not ask each person where
he is going, so it is difficult to determine who has left and for how long.
Researchers therefore qualify their findings, and this is why we can talk
confidently about a trend of leaving but less so about a phenomenon.

Poor everywhere
Sagi Balasha is the CEO of the Israeli Leadership Council,
whose mission, according to its website, is “to build an active and giving
Israeli-American community in order to strengthen the State of Israel, our next
generation, and to provide a bridge to the Jewish-American community.” He, for
one, feels that fewer Israelis have been coming to the United States in the
past few years, because of the economic situation there as contrasted to
In fact, he says, the desire to move to America is the
product of mythmaking. “In Israel we grew up with the perception that America
is the height of ambitions, the land of possibilities, in contrast to the
self-laceration in Israel. A whole generation was raised in that light. Israel
is characterized by frenetic activity and has become a start-up nation, and the
feeling is that America is sleeping.”
Nevertheless, Balasha says, there are many who view the
United States as the next step in their career. He says he recently met a young
Israeli who chose to leave a comfortable, well-paid career with good social
conditions and even tenure, for the United States. “It’s likely he will have to
compromise, so I asked him why he did it. He said he also wanted to try
America. That is an illusion, and if you probe it you find that with the
exception of a few Israelis who really did make it, the majority live at a
middling level and most of them did not triumph.”
Balasha’s organization is trying to create an Israeli
community and Israeli culture for the Israelis in Los Angeles. One of its
activities is to distribute food to poor families from Israel. “Every week we
distribute dozens of crates to Israelis who don’t have food to eat. You have
the whole gamut here, from the poor to the upper class. The living standard is
also very similar to what you have in Israel.”
There are 250,000 Israelis in the United States, Balasha
says. That’s more than the population of Netivot, Ofakim, Beit She’an and
Nesher put together. The large number of people translates into large
differences in terms of success. Even though the statistics say that one in
every five emigrants return, in practice even longtime emigrants find it
difficult to admit — even to themselves — that they are not likely to go
Israel is home
Roy Azoulay, 34, and his partner, Liat Reuveni, 38, have
been living in Oxford, England, for the past four years. They made the move so
he could obtain an MBA. Azoulay notes that even though the MBA studies take a
year, their original plan was to stay for five years. “We were always curious
about how it might be to live abroad, and we wanted to get a little experience
of the outside world,”
he says.
After obtaining his MBA, Azoulay started to work in a
subsidiary of Oxford University, a kind of technological hothouse that supports
about 15 companies. Reuveni, a dental technician by profession, does not work.
She is raising their son, Yonatan, who is 18 months old and was born in
England, and their Israeli-born daughter, Mika, age 5. “It’s common here for
one of the spouses to take a break from the world of work and allow the family
to subsist less materialistically, in order to give the children the optimal
conditions until the start of school,” Azoulay says. “In Israel, that is not
considered a legitimate choice.”
In addition to the legitimacy of being able to be with the
children, Azoulay also notes the “sanity” of the English working day, adding,
Obviously, life here is more comfortable in many ways.” Nevertheless, he
insists that from the family viewpoint, their home is Israel and they do not
intend to stay in Oxford forever.
An impressive declaration, but a few weeks ago he received
a job offer he will find hard to refuse, and if he accepts it, the family will
remain abroad for two more years. “The decision is being made with mixed
feelings, because we very much were waiting to return. We hesitated to leave,
because we loved the life in Israel and enjoyed ourselves. But this offer is a
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,”
Azoulay explains, in an apologetic tone.
All the emigrants we interviewed for this article come from
the middle class — the class which most economists maintain is the basis of a
viable democracy with a healthy economy. The middle class bears the tax burden
(its members don’t have the smart accountants that the upper decile can afford
to hire) and also the burden of army reserve duty. When the Israeli middle
class took to the streets in the social-protest movement of summer 2011, it
discovered that the decision makers are indifferent to its problems.
Still, though no significant change has occurred, it can be
argued that the protests brought about at least one change: the perception of
an eroding middle class is now axiomatic. Middle-class salaries have dropped by
7.7 percent in the past decade. The possibility for further erosion among the
middle class remains high: sometimes all that separates social well-being from
dire poverty is a health or employment catastrophe.
No fewer than 15.5
percent of those who sought help from aid agencies in Israel last year categorized
themselves as former middle-class families,”
attorney Eran Weintrob, executive
director of Latet — Israeli Humanitarian Aid, told TheMarker in September
2012. The economic ailments of Israeli society are not confined solely to the
middle class. The past few years have seen a dramatic growth in inequality
here, with large disparities forming. As a result of the concentration of
wealth among a few families, even those who are by definition part of the upper
decile don’t always feel they have anywhere to progress to economically. If we
add the high cost of real estate, it’s not surprising that a generation has
grown up here feeling economically stymied and believing that it can have a
better life elsewhere. The fusion between economic insecurity and a sense of
hopelessness explains the desire to leave.
If we don’t think our children’s lives will be better than
ours, why stay?

Scratching an itch
Ruthie Meiri Newgrosh, 35, filmmaker, on why she swapped
Israel for England.
I am writing this on my iPhone. At the moment it’s my
connection to the outside world, because most of the time I am closely
connected to a 5-week-old baby girl. I’ve been living in Manchester for the
past two and a half years, happily married to Alex, an English Jew who was born
About three and a half years ago, I started to feel an itch
in my stomach telling me I could no longer stay in Israel. That was before the
missiles were aimed at Tel Aviv, before the social protest movement, before a
lot of the wrong things that have subsequently occurred. Not that it was a new
Ten years ago, I persuaded my grandfather to apply for the
Slovakian passport to which he was entitled. Since then he has used it a few
times to get a pensioner’s discount on European trains. My father obtained a
passport a few years later, and I launched the process to get one around the
time the itch started.
I received the coveted passport exactly a week before I
moved to England. It saved us a lot of grief and a lot of money. A visa for a
fiancee or married woman means plenty of British bureaucracy.
Before the itch began, and while it was still bugging me, I
was your typical Tel Aviv type: flourishing career in television, dog, going
out a lot, yoga, the beach. I loved every second of my life. But I was also a
left-wing activist, highly motivated to bring about change and equality. I
organized a group to learn Arabic, went to demonstrations, edited film clips
for free. I worked on behalf of my art. Until I was worn down. Seriously worn
down. The state won.
Then came the itch. The itch told me to start expending a
little more energy on myself and my future, and a little less on an insensitive
state that didn’t give two hoots for me.
I met Alex at the wedding of our best friends. The ultimate
schmaltz. About a year after I embarked on the process of moving to England,
the universe sent me the love of my life. An English love. After three days
together, we both knew this was it.
It was obvious I would move to England rather than him
moving to Israel. Not that it wasn’t hard to give up so much. Especially family
and career.
I often have dreams about Israel and thoughts about what
could have been if Alex had moved into my rented apartment in Tel Aviv. But
then reality seeps into the fantasy and I know I would still be awash in debt,
with no chance of us ever having a house or apartment of our own. I would have
remained frustrated.
Not that everything here is perfect. Far from it. But in
Manchester, too, as in London ‏(in the words of the Chava Alberstein song‏),
the despair is a lot more comfortable.

Jewish migration from Israel to Europe on the rise 

Friday, 21 September 2012 09:00

Almost 1
million Israelis left the state to live in the US, Britain, Australia and
Germany in 2011. The figure was revealed by researcher Michel Sharon, who added
that they end up having a prosperous life in their new countries.
details of Israel’s migration statistics were given in a television programme
on Israeli Channel 2. Migrants to Canada told the programme that life there is
more peaceful” than in Israel. Around 2,500 Israelis migrate to
Canada every year; one of the reasons given is that there is no talk of death
and destruction there. This is causing the Israeli government some concern.
to Israeli newspaper Maariv, the state is losing out on the migration stakes.
The Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics said that the number of migrants to
Israel in 2010 was 18,129, the lowest since 1988.
also reported that 70 per cent of American Jews have not been to Israel and do
not even intend to visit the country which is given vast amounts of tax dollars
by the US government. More than 50 per cent of those Jews are married to
non-Jews and 50 per cent do not care if Israel ceases to exist. For this
reason, Israel’s government is preparing an initiative which aims to reinforce
the relationship of Jews around the world with Israel.
Of the 87
per cent of Jewish youth from the countries of the former Soviet Union who want
to migrate, only 36 per cent would be willing to go to Israel, claimed Maariv.
The newspaper said that Jews from Eastern Europe are no longer regarded as
potential immigrants by the Israeli government “in reserve” to
counter the demographic reality of a growing Palestinian population. US Jews
are not expected to fill the migration gap.
of migrants from the former Soviet Union left Israel and returned to their
countries of origin either because they are really Christians and went to
Israel simply to benefit from government inducements, or because of the better
economic situation at home. Jewish organisations in the former Soviet empire
have been working hard to keep their fellow Jews in their countries, claimed
Maariv, while the situation in Israel is still very unstable.
on this, Israeli geographer Arnon Sofer said, “The future of Jewish
Galilee [sic] is uncertain as the number of Jews decreases, while the number of
Arabs is increasing.”
The specialist in water issues and demography at the
University of Haifa said that the number of Arabs in Galilee stands at 640,000
whereas there are only 570,000 Jews. He suggested the need for a government-funded
Jewish migration project to change the demography of the region in favour of
the Jews.
See also the Pew Research Centre’s February 9, 2015 The continuing decline of Europe’s Jewish population 
By /
August 16, 2015

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Tony Greenstein

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