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Tuesday, 5 June, 2001, 14:04 GMT 15:04 UK
Uprising spotlights Israel's Russian immigrants
The funeral of sisters Yulia and Yelena Nelimov, aged 18 and 16
Immigrants feel the uprising hit them especially hard
The suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on Friday that killed 20 Israelis has traumatised Israel's one-million strong Russian immigrant community.

Israeli Minister of Energy Avigdor Lieberman
Mr Lieberman is one of several powerful Russian-born politicians
The bomb exploded outside a nightclub popular with Israeli Russians. Its playlist of Russian pop songs draws teenagers from Israel's Russian community, which now accounts for a sixth of the country's population.

The bomb has added to Russian immigrant feeling that the Palestinian uprising has hit them especially hard.

A new opinion poll published in an Israeli newspaper shows that 59% of the Russian immigrant community now wants an immediate end to Israel's two-week, limited ceasefire.

That is much higher than the percentage of non-Russian Israelis demanding its end in the same poll.

Internal tensions

But the attack also highlighted tensions that have existed over more than a decade between Israelis born in Israel and those who immigrated from Russia.

There was an angry reaction among Russian immigrants when Israeli religious leaders questioned whether three of the victims should be buried in Jewish cemeteries, as their mothers were not Jewish.

A lot of people in this country find it difficult to accept that the idea of the melting pot has failed

Guy Chuck,
Russian immigrant
Guy Chuck, an Israeli who emigrated to Israel from Russia at the age of 14 and now runs a communications company in Tel Aviv, told the BBC that there was no "melting pot" in Israel, but that it was a multi-cultural society.

"Certainly there is some misunderstanding between the people from Russia and people who were born here," Mr Chuck said.

Russians bring their own cultural baggage with them, he said, and strive to preserve it in the new country.

Israelis were not always tolerant of that attitude, and therefore there were misunderstandings, he said.

"A lot of people in this country, I think, find it difficult to accept that the idea of the melting pot has failed," Mr Chuck said.

He added, however, that the Russian immigrants have integrated very well into the country, "despite the fact that Israelis found it difficult to accept the Russians."

Secular and hawkish

The number of Russian immigrants in Israel has grown hugely since the collapse of the Soviet Union. They have become the kingmakers in Israeli politics, with both the governing Likud and the opposition Labour parties vying frantically for their votes in recent elections.

Israeli Knesset Member Natan Sharansky
Mr Sharansky quit over concessions
The Russian community in Israel tends to be secularist, disapproving of the money given to ultra-orthodox Jewish institutions, while at the same time being hawkish on security issues.

Many, including the Infrastructure Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, reject compromise with the Palestinians, including any deal on sharing Jerusalem.

The leader of the main Russian immigrant party, the one-time Soviet dissident, Natan Sharansky, withdrew from the previous government because he felt it was making too many concessions for peace.

Now, in the wake of the Tel Aviv bombing, the Russians' uncompromising position has hardened further.

And newspapers in Russia have taken an equally hard-line stance.

Events like what happened in Tel Aviv on Friday, obviously pose a big question about the future of the children here

Guy Chuck
"Israeli Russians want war," the business-oriented Kommersant wrote.

"It is hard to imagine an action more likely to discredit the just cause of the Palestinians in the eyes of the world community and especially Russian opinion," the daily Trud said of the disco bombing.

The daily Izvestiya demanded a strong reaction. "The Israeli government has no right to forgive the terrorists who killed 20 young people," it wrote.

But some Russian immigrants are now simply speaking of leaving Israel altogether, believing that the mounting violence there offers them little future.

"The major reason for this is that a lot of people who came here, had in mind the future of their children," Mr Chuck said. "So events like what happened in Tel Aviv on Friday, obviously pose a big question about the future of the children here."

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See also:

03 Jun 01 | Middle East
Brittle Mid-East truce holds
03 Jun 01 | Media reports
Disco bombing prompts fierce debate
03 Jun 01 | Middle East
Palestinians face new sanctions
02 Jun 01 | Middle East
Israel scorns Arafat promise
25 May 01 | Middle East
Blasts test Israel's 'ceasefire'
12 Mar 01 | Middle East
Analysis: Hardship of the blockade
28 Mar 01 | Middle East
Israel's history of bomb blasts
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