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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 November, 2004, 18:44 GMT
Your comments: Israel's immigration slump
French immigrants arrive in Israel
The number of French immigrants has been going up

BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents was broadcast on Thursday, 25 November, 2004 at 1100 GMT.

Lucy Ash visited Israel during an immigration slump to explore the impact on Israeli society of both those who are leaving, and those just arriving.

We asked for your comments on the issues our programme raised. Below is a selection of your views.

The Palestinian issue was invisible in your programme. How can a balanced media organisation fail to deal with the suffering of the Palestinians and the continuous building of settlements which are to be filled by many of those immigrants you describe?
Douglas Shaw

One million immigrants from the former Soviet Union have come to Israel since 1990, while about 50,000 have returned. That is only 5%.

Some who came were the non-Jewish spouses of Jewish immigrants. Maybe they account for a large proportion of the returnees.

I think it is natural that some would return home because thy could not adjust
Bob Kirk
However, when one compares a 5% return rate to a much larger return rate of American and other Western immigrants to Israel, the 'Russian' figures are small.

I think it is natural that some would return home because thy could not adjust.

As Israel's economy picks up and as the security situation improves, I expect the number of immigrants will increase.
Bob Kirk

Your feature article paints an exaggerated picture of the lives of Russian immigrants to Israel.

Many Russian immigrants are invigorating Israel with their talent and entrepreneurial skills.

Well done on a difficult issue. I have lived in Israel for some years, and the reality, as portrayed in the programme, is complex.

Anyone who has spent time in Russia (as I also have) will find it hard to deny that by almost all measures, Israel offers a far better life.

The level of "success" and "failure" has much to do with the initial level of expectation and with individual circumstances
Robert Harris
But for individuals who are not able to find suitable work, this fact has little relevance, and will mean nothing to the person who has not found a place in the new society.

One must also take into account that Russian immigrants came from a society where, until the 1990s, the state was expected to take care of basic needs, and those who were brought up to expect this support will, indeed, be disappointed.

The same applies for those who immigrate expecting the lifestyle seen on American TV. The level of "success" and "failure" has much to do with the initial level of expectation and with individual circumstances.
Robert Harris

I listened to this programme with great difficulty, having just received news of the building starting right now of another Jewish settlement around the Palestinian village of Jayyous in the West Bank.

I spent some time last year in this village and in other parts of the West Bank and saw these new settlements mushrooming on the hilltops, taking water wells and good farmland from the Palestinians.

I experienced the hundreds of checkpoints where Palestinians have to queue with their IDs, often waiting for hours just to get to work, school, university or hospital.

Now you have covered the Israeli situation, please go inside the West Bank to interview people there.
Clare Meiklejohn

I know many Russian Jews in my area here in Toronto, who chose to first move to Israel for citizenship, then chose to come here for more opportunities.

It is sad that Israel gives citizenship and land rights to people like this, yet denies that right in negotiations with the Palestinians.

I went from Moscow to Israel in 1974. I was living in Jerusalem and teaching at the university for nine years before coming to the US.

The problem is Israel's inability to accommodate large numbers of people looking for professional placements.

Unfortunately there is no practical solution to the problem. The only hope is that the freedom of the beautiful country named Israel will stop the majority going back to Russia.
Sam Mil'shtein

Residents of Israel face the constant stream of terrible attacks on civilians in restaurants, buses and shops.

Life in Israel is no picnic, but people genuinely in touch with their roots would not live anywhere else
There is the knowledge that no-one outside the US and Israel cares. Finding good work is tough, and the welfare state is heavily burdened by the defence costs.

Life in Israel is no picnic, but people genuinely in touch with their roots would not live anywhere else.

It is very sad that people are leaving Israel, however it is minority of Russians.

Of course most Russians and everyone else who lives in Israel are concerned with terrorism and the economic slump, but as far as I know most Russians are happy that they live in Israel.

It is not unusual to see people leaving a country when there are security and financial problems, so I am not sure why the BBC is discussing this topic, besides showing Israel in negative light.

Recently, there were small waves of immigration from US, France, Argentina and Canada. It is these groups the BBC should focus its attention on, since the BBC has more than enough anti-Israeli material.

Let us put things in perspective. Jews are not persecuted in Israel.

I believe the little graffiti that is being painted is mainly by illegal immigrants.

As for verbal and physical assaults, I would like to see that with my own eyes before I believe it. I have never heard of it, and even if it did happen, it is extremely rare.

You are making it sound as though Jews do not feel safe in their homeland. Well that is absolutely wrong.

The media makes it look like a war zone, but many cities in Israel have not had a single terrorist attack
Secondly, regarding suicide bombings, most Israelis do not think about it, and are used to it.

I feel very safe here and I know many other people who feel like I do.

It also depends where you live in Israel. The media makes it look like Israel is a war zone, but many cities in Israel have not had a single terrorist attack.

The economy is the crucial issue. The threat of losing your job is much more real than being a victim of a terrorist attack.

I have Russian friends that are just as happy as I am to live in Israel. Some immigrants do well in Israel, some do not, just like in any other country.

As one who immigrated to Israel from the US, and returned to the US after living in Israel for 10 years, I can say the major reason why Jews leave Israel is not the Arabs nor the wars nor the high taxation.

It is the generally rude and nasty way Israelis treat each other. If Jews in Israel treated each other more as brothers, no power on earth could destroy Israel.
Jack Garbuz

Israel should offer citizenship to the hundreds of thousands of Christian and Muslim Palestinians who were driven from their homes and villages when Israel was founded in 1948.

It is sad that Israelis cannot even feel safe in there own home country. What has the world come to when people are subjected to hatred and discrimination from society, only to go home and find they cannot even feel safe there.

The Israelis have gone through enough turmoil in their history. What more do they have to go through?

Isn't it strange that a person from Siberia can buy a house in Jerusalem, and can be buried there while Palestinians cannot?
Isn't it strange that a person from Siberia can buy a house in Jerusalem, and can be buried there while Palestinians cannot?

Why is it that the Israelis are so worried about all those Arabs while they continue to allow into their country people who are far from being Jewish?

I think this report is totally exaggerated.

Personally, I am very impressed about how Russian immigrants have become a new elite in Israel in only 15 years.

They are dominant in every hi-tech company, in the fields of arts, and in sciences.

It is clear that they have become an inseparable part of Israeli culture and achieved all this due to their competence and high level of education.

Of course emigrating to another country is a crisis for anyone and not everybody adjusts, but looking at the whole picture this is definitely a story of success.
Tal Cohen

Israel is part of the holy land (together with Jordan) and is an integral part of the Jewish homeland.

People who move here should identify with Jewish people and their land.

If they do not, they will ultimately cause more problems than it is possible for the Jewish Agency to predict.
Anon, Israel

The political Zionism that the founders of the Israeli State espoused has always been at odds with the deeper spiritual roots and aspirations of the Jewish people.

A principle reason why Israel as a state is losing the battle for the hearts and minds of its people today is because Zionism and Judaism are opposing concepts.

The secular state of Israel can never hope to be a spiritual home to those who are truly Jews
The secular state of Israel can never hope to be a spiritual home to those who are truly Jews.

Secular Jews are aware of this and see no major benefit to being an Israeli; as apposed to merely a secular Jew.

And the religious Jews find themselves in a physical land with a secular government and an army as their protection.

They are in a vast hostile wilderness having been told they are in the Promised Land.

I think that is very good that people are going to Israel.

I am from Belgium but I have some family living in Tel Aviv. I hope that now the war will with the Palestinians will finish.
Benjamin Katz

It is very sad when Jewish people do not even feel that they can live in there home land anymore.

They are already subjected to anti-Semitic abuse in the rest of the world. The one place they should feel at home and safe is Israel.

The Israelis should still return to their country so that the word of God should be fulfilled.
Chisomo Mthunzi

I would not want to live around suicide bombers (or Israeli soldiers for that matter) either, so I do not blame them for wanting to leave. At least they have a choice.

As for "brain drain", I think Israel will survive. If unemployment is causing people to leave, all the better for Israel that they do leave!

How about the BBC writing something positive about the democratic state of Israel for a change?

Israel is a beautiful country and needs international support
Israel is a beautiful country and needs international support. Constant attacks and threats of suicide bombings have severely damaged the state's finances and therefore it is very difficult for Israel to find extra cash for Russians.

Israel would love to help them, but due to their impossible fight against terrorism, they have no means to do so.

I think that lately most people migrating to Israel do so for economic purposes, not religious ones.

After seeing, living and learning about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict they often end up returning home. In my experience, only fanatic orthodox Jewish and local Palestinians stay in Israel all their lives.
Nassim Kefi

Well it is really sad that Israel is losing such wonderful people. I spent time in Russia and the people there really do have brilliant minds.
James Newmont

Israelis should come to Uganda. We need their technology, especially in farming. They can help to modernise our agriculture while they earn a profit for a comfortable living!
Godfrey Rugyema

The comments we publish are not necessarily the views of the BBC but will reflect the balance of views we have received. It is helpful if contributors state if they work for any organisation relevant to an issue discussed. Readers should form their own views on whether messages published represent undeclared interests, or views prompted by a common source.

Crossing Continents


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Israel's immigration slump
18 Nov 04 |  Crossing Continents
Israel's modern immigrants
18 May 02 |  Middle East
Lucy Ash: Biography
31 Mar 04 |  Crossing Continents



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