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Sunday, July 31, 2011

How many Israelis have left?

Yoav Karasenty and Shmuel Rosner debunk the claim that a million Israelis have left since the country attained its independence.
We should start with this simple statement: There are not a "million missing Israelis." A study conducted under the auspices of our think tank, the Jewish People Policy Institute -- one that has not yet been released but will be published in a couple of weeks -- will put the real number of "missing" Israelis at a much lower number. According to Israel's Bureau of Statistics, since the establishment of the state up until the end of 2008, 674,000 Israelis left the country and did not return after more than a year abroad. An unknown number, estimated to be between 102,000 and 131,000, have died since, putting the number of living Israelis abroad at the end of 2008 at 543,000 to 572,000 (if one counts the dead abroad, one should also count the dead in Israel -- this will not change the number of leaving Israelis but will definitely change the percentage of them).

An updated model developed by the Bureau of Statistics at the end of 2008 put the number of not-returning Israelis abroad at 518,000, but added to it a category of 290,000 "non-resident" Israelis. This last number is a tricky one, as it includes the children of Israelis born abroad if they were registered with the Israeli authorities. Such children have never lived in Israel and can hardly be considered "missing," but if one adds them to the mix one gets to 808,000 Israelis, of which more than 100,000 have already died. Bottom line: Some 670,000 to 700,000 official "Israelis" (including children) live outside Israel today.

But here's where the narrative gets more complicated. Much more complicated -- and fascinating -- if one cares to understand the real story of missing Israelis. Israel is a country of many immigrants, as Chamie and Mirkin did bother to note when they wrote about "another important factor contributing to the outflow of Jewish Israelis," that is, "previous emigration experience." But they didn't quite explain the meaning of what they'd written: Israel is a melting pot for some -- not unlike the United States -- but also a stop-on-the-way-to-someplace-else for others. In many cases, it is a gateway for people escaping repressive regimes or poverty.

Take, for example, the huge wave of immigrants who flew in droves to Israel after the collapse of the Soviet Union. According to Israeli Interior Ministry records, 1.1 million immigrants from the former Soviet Union entered Israel between January 1989 and December 2002. However, 8.8 percent of those newcomers -- some 100,000 olim (the Hebrew term used to describe those choosing to "climb up" to Israel) -- had decided not to remainRe in Israel and quite quickly moved on to their countries of choice. Should such newcomers be counted as "leaving Israelis"? Should their departure be considered a blow to Zionist dreams? Or maybe these immigrants were merely people leaving the Soviet Union, making the first available escape, without ever seriously considering Israel as their long-term place of residence?
Read the whole thing. It only seems like every pizza and felafel joint in the US is owned by Israelis. Or there aren't a million of them.

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At 1:47 AM, Blogger Juniper in the Desert said...

If they are anti-Israel Israelis, what is the problem?


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