Emigration from Israel – The Overlooked or Hidden Facts

An article by the Guttman Center for Surveys on the desire of young people from the Russian immigrant community in Israel to remain in Israel. The survey found that more Russians than native-born Israelis are emigrating from Israel in search of a better future.

The Guttman Center has conducted public opinion surveys in which numerous questions were posed concerning the desire to remain in Israel. An analysis of the Israelis' responses to the question, "Do you or do you not wish to live in Israel in the long term?" was published in an article on this website. The findings revealed that immediately following the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, there was a dramatic decrease in the percentage of young Israelis who wished to remain in Israel, although with time, the trend changed, but only among veteran Israelis. Among the youth who had immigrated from the Former Soviet Union (FSU), there has been a significant decrease in the rates of those committed to remaining in Israel since 2006: from 63% in February 2006 to 46% in 2008. It was noted that this finding should be correlated to the fact that the immigrants left the Soviet Union because of an intense sense of insecurity and instability and with the desire to find a stable and secure environment in Israel. However, the unwillingness of many of the immigrants to remain in Israel is also due to other reasons, which were expounded at length in another article.

These findings correspond with the data presented by the Knesset Research and Information Center based on data from the Central Bureau of Statistics: "The rate of emigration among those who immigrated to Israel after 1989 is much higher than the rate among the veteran immigrants and native-born Israelis. Many of the educated youth among the immigrants from the FSU have emigrated from Israel to western countries. Currently, the phenomenon of emigration to Russia is far too widespread ..." Among the groups that tend to emigrate from Israel is a distinct group of "new immigrants who could not be integrated in Israel because of the unsuitability of their professions to the Israeli work force. According to research conducted by the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, there is a noticeable group of young people among these emigrants who are more highly educated than the average among new immigrants."Naomi Me-Ami, “Data on Emigration from Israel,” [Knesset] Research and Information Center, submitted to the Committee on Immigration, Absorption and the Diaspora, 07/27/2006.

The phenomenon is seemingly clear-cut: More young, educated "Russians" are emigrating from Israel in search of a better future in western countries and in Russia than native-born Israelis. In a well-functioning country, such a phenomenon and its ramifications would concern the decision makers and would oblige them to immediately treat the problem at its source. But not in Israel.

On October 5, 2008, the Israel+ channel (an Israeli channel in Russian) broadcasted a program in which some of our findings were cited. The journalist who wrote the story, which included an interview of a combat soldier, among others, who had decided to leave Israel after the Second Lebanon War, presented the problem as critical. The TV journalist also invited Knesset Member Marina Solodkin and the Jewish Agency spokesperson, Alex Selsky, to a studio discussion. The discussion was conducted under classic Soviet terms, according to which the goal of concealing the facts justifies the means, including outright misinformation. Solodkin stated: "According to the official data, emigration from Israel among immigrants from the [former] Soviet Union is significantly less than that of veteran Israelis. This has been a fact for many, many years... and I would say to the soldier in the story that we will talk to him after he has spent several years in his western country..." The entire program was conducted in this vein. The speakers based themselves on Solodkin's unfounded data and spoke about Israelis who dream of returning home to our wonderful country after not making it abroad.

This type of Soviet discussion places immigrants who arrived in Israel during the nineties in a difficult predicament. Their official representative in the Knesset, who is interested in becoming Minister of Absorption and is well aware of the depth of the problem from the data presented to her in the Absorption Committee, is concealing the true facts at all costs, just as is the representative of the Jewish Agency, whose official function is to convince those eligible for immigration to come to Israel. Moreover, even the sole television channel that is meant to represent Russian immigrants takes part in concealing the problem, presents it in a distorted light and speaks of Israeli brotherhood instead of endeavoring to find solutions.

Anyone currently exposed to the ambience among the young "Russians" who are graduating from the top faculties in Israel discovers that it is very similar to that of their parents at the beginning of the nineties in Russia. The youth talk about emigrating to the West, encourage each other and share information. This is the reality. However, the formula that "there is no need to solve problems if they can be hidden away" is deeply assimilated in the Soviet consciousness of those activists responsible for the fate of hundreds of thousands of immigrants. How exactly can we expect to resolve the problems of employment, housing, pensions and relations with Israeli veterans of these immigrants when both the Russian-speaking decision makers and media are not interested in exposing the true facts to the public and are unwilling to openly confirm that as a result of the immigrants' problems, many are leaving Israel, irrespective of their love for the country and where they served in the Army.

In the coming months, the Guttman Center at the Israel Democracy Institute is preparing to conduct a new survey devoted to immigration to Israel in the nineties. One of the objectives of the survey is to expose the feelings and concerns of the immigrant community. Unfortunately, the many who have since emigrated from Israel will not be surveyed.