Aliyah - Immigration from the (former) Soviet Union in the past 18 years (1989-2007)
The factors to this immigration wave
In contrast with the prime immigration waves and similarly to the fifth immigration wave, Zionist motives were not the main reasons which brought most of the immigrants to Israel, and the main reasons for the immigration wave were mainly economic and because they feared for their own personal security, as a result of the fall of the communism and the chaos which prevailed in Russia in the first years after that.
The reason that many Jews chose to emigrate actually to Israel, in spite of the fact that they were not Zionists, is in the fact that the United States closed its gates to the Soviet Union Jews at the start of 1990, while Israel was willing to receive them unconditionally. United States initiated this due to pressure which came from the Israeli government. Until the closing of the gates, during the 1980s about 200,000 Jews immigrated to the United States from the Soviet Union.
After their immigration to Israel a lot of immigrants changed their political views and adopted the Zionist position.
The absorption in IsraelGeographical dissemination
The abruptness of this immigration wave and its extensive extent brought a the immediate severe shortage in housing in Israel, and in particular in the Gush Dan area and to a drastic rise in the prices of the residential apartments. As a result from it, Israeli housing at that period, Ariel Sharon, initiated different programs to incentive the construction of new residential buildings, which partly included the concession of different planning procedures. When those resources did not provide a response to the growing immigration wave, and many immigrants remained lacking a roof, within two years about 430 caravans sites were set up across Israel which contained 27,000 caravans. The biggest caravans site was founded in Beersheba, which consisted of 2,308 housing units.
After that period, the immigrants dissipated throughout Israel. Also in this immigration wave a returned common phenomenon to previous Israeli immigration waves repeated itself - the efforts of the state to transfer the immigrants to the periphery caused to immigrants from lower socio economic status to move to the periphery while immigrants from the more higher socio economic status, which had the resources to oppose to these efforts, moved to the residential areas of their own choice instead, mostly in Gush Dan.
Additional cities in which many of the immigrants moved to (willingly and unwillingly) were Haifa and the HaKerayot urban area, Petah Tikva, Ariel and Ashdod. This immigration wave which divided between immigrants moving to the central and immigrants moving to the periphery had a clear ethnic aspect while the majority of the immigrants whom originated from the European areas of the Commonwealth of Independent States moved to the central of Israel, most of the immigrants whom moved to the periphery were inhabitants of the Islamic republics and the former Caucasus.
The absorption characteristics
The absorption laws changed with the time. The basic government grants which were given to each immigrant changed rapidly from the late 1980s to the late 1990s. Most of the immigrants arrived initially to the periphery and later dissipated to the "Russian" neighborhoods. There were cities, mainly from the medium and the lower socio economic hierarchy, in which the rate of immigrants consisted of over 50% of all the residents.
Many of the immigrants integrated in the Israeli labor market, but the majority remained confined inside their own communities. The main reasons to the closedness of this immigration wave is possibly due to big number of immigrants which arrived which helped them establish big neighborhoods of at times consisted of dozens of thousands of people, and the lack of the many immigrants to change according to the society which receives them and the expectancy from the society itself to change in order to absorb them.
Many of the new immigrants opposed to the fact that their former education were not recognized by a lot of the Israeli employers, although it was recognized by the higher education institutions. Many had to work in jobs which did not match their expertise, in contrast with the Soviet immigrants whom immigrated to the United States in the 1980s.
Part of the immigrants chose to stick to the strategy of the dissimilation, in which, they kept the originating culture while rejecting the absorbing culture. Other parts of the immigrants (the political leadership and the younger people) chose to stick with the strategy of intertwining, in which they became involved in the surrounding culture while conserving their original culture. These strategically choices were different from these of the previous immigration waves, which the commonly strategic they chose was the assimilation strategy, which consisted of rejecting the originating culture and welcoming the absorbing culture, as well as the intertwining strategy.
The weakening of the Zionist ethos and disappearance of the Melting pot perception brought more tolerance from the Israeli society to the attempts of the Russian immigrants to preserve their culture. In tandem, many of the immigrants saw themselves as delegates of the Russian culture, and to them it was superior to the levantine Israeli culture. Those two parallel trends, in combination with the dwellings of many immigrants in their own separate neighborhoods, brought to the creation of a discerned Russian-Israeli culture from the oriental culture.
This culture is mainly characterized to a great extent in combination of characteristic elements from the soviet union and characteristic elements from Israel. This mixture created a new secular culture which speaks both Hebrew and Russian parllaly (and some times even together) which put a great emphasis between higher culture and lower culture in the fields of Literature, Music, Theatre etc.
In the field of Mass communication, due to the demand in amongst the new mass of immigrants very quickly the immigrants got the possibility to watch entertainment and read news in the Russian language through Russian-Israeli TV stations and newspapers. Sine the early 1990s many newspapers appeared in the Russian language. With the development of the multichannel television in Israel during the 1990s many Russian channels were broadcasted in Israel.
In November 2002 an important development in this field occurred, when a new Israeli-russian channel emerged on the Israeli television called "Israel Plus".
The secular character of this immigration wave and their attempts to preserve their eating habitual brought in the mid 1990s to opening of big stores selling common merchandise which was prevalent in Ussr, among other things non-kosher meat such as pork. Even though the sale of pork meat is allowable in Israel, and there are even pig farms in kibbutz Mizra, the marketing of the meat to the cities which have a high rate of religious or traditional residents constituted as a contravention of the secular-religious Status quo in Israel, and caused many confrontations. In most of the cases the different sides reached compromises and the pork meat stores were moved to the industry regions of the cities.
The immigrants succeeded to integrate successfully in the Israeli economy and in the different branches of the economy, and they are characterized as having a higher rate of participation in the work market. The Israeli high tech field went through a small revolution with inculcation of several technological greenhouses which were originally set up in order to provide employment for the thousands of the scientists and the engineers which came through this immigration wave. A big part of the construction branch in Israel is manned by civilian engineers exiters of the Russian Federation, as a result of the great emphasis which the Ussr had given to the industrial urban development in the 1960s and the 1970s which emphasized the honorability in the field.
A study conducted in 1995, which checked the wage level of the literate immigrants (16 years of education and above) in comparison to the level of the wage of the Israeli-borns with the same level of education, showed that the wage level of the immigrants is rising in the relation to the wage of the Israeli-borns. The wage of a new immigrant in his first year in the country stands on 40% from the wage of an Israeli-born, while the wage of an immigrant which lived in Israel for 6 years would arrive at about 70% from the wage of an Israeli-born. Amongst the age group of 22-40, which has 16 years of education and above, the gap between the immigrants and the Israeli-borns is close, and after 6 years there even seemed to be a gap of about 6% in favor of the immigrants.
According to the Israel Central Bureau of Statistics about 1/3 of the 1990s immigrants got their former education recognized in Israel as higher education. But less than half of the literate population of workers works in the field of their expertise.
The reaction of the Israeli society
At first the reaction of the Israeli society to the Jewish Soviet Union immigration wave was very positive, and the common phrase "with every immigrant, our strength rises" was used amongst the locals. This positive attitude changed with the time as a result of fears in parts of the Israeli society to the effects the massive immigration wave would have on the Israeli society. The two central reasons for the fear was which were related to this immigration wave was the fear of the high percent of non-Jews amongst the immigrants, and the apprehension that the new immigrants would take away the workplaces from the veteran population.
Another additional reason for negative attitudes is connected to the general characteristic of a migratory society, the inhospitable attitude of the veteran group towards the population of immigrants. In this respect, negative stereotypical rumors started to spread about the new immigrants. This inhospitable attitude intensified also because -- in contrast with the previous immigration waves to Israel -- many of the immigrants from this wave kept their culture and language, without trying to blend their customs with their new lives in Israel. Much of the criticism towards this wave was related to their cultural distinction, which included many negative stereotypes regarding Israeli society.
Still, many immigrants succeeded in blending into Israeli society in different fields, and contribute greatly to Israel.
Avigdor LiebermanThe lack of willingness to integrate in the society and the demand to gain political power which would comply with their unique needs caused a growth of "Russian parties" - in which the party "Israel BaAliya" gained most popularity in the leadership of Natan Sharansky. The party gained a great success in the elections of 1996 and received 7 mandates. In the elections of 1999 its power descended by one mandate whereas in the elections of 2003 it only gained two mandates and was integrated into the Likud party. Many see the fall of the party of the immigrants as a positive sign to the intertwining in the Israeli society and to the fact that they do not need their own party anymore. The founder and leader of the "Israel BaAliya" party, Natan Sharansky, said after the elections that the reason to the fall of his party was actually in its success to obtain its objectives of intertwining the immigrants in the Israeli society.
From against, the politician Avigdor Lieberman established the party "Yisrael Beiteinu" (Israel is our home), as a competitor of "Israel BaAliya". Yisrael Beiteinu focused on the national issues and took a hard line towards Israeli Arabs and Palestinians based upon the view that they do not support the right of Jews to maintain a Jewish state in the Middle East. This party gained a relative success in the elections of 1999, in which they won four mandates and later united with the right wing party "The National Union" which gained 7 mandates in the 15th Knesset and in the 16th Knesset.
During the 1990s the voting of the immigrants in the elections was confronted, in that it was always against the present authority. In reality, the immigrants had a considerable part in the falls of the governments of Yitzhak Shamir, Shimon Peres, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak. With the start of the Second Intifada, a big part of the soviet immigrants tended towards the right-wing of the political spectrum in their opinions concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict and held hawkish positions in the issues of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Counter-terrorism. Although most of the soviet immigrants supported the liberal polices in the subjects of religion and state, due to the fact that this immigration wave was secular in its majority, they avoided support the Israeli left-wing parties which consisted of similar positions, as a result of their compromising positions in regard of the Palestinians and their identification of left-wing with the soviet communism. So, for example, the elections propaganda for Ehud Barak based on a distribution of Russian book which described him as a war hero of Israel. Many political commentators claimed after the elections, that this book had a decisive effect in the victory of Barak in the elections. Likewise, also the big sympathy of soviet immigrants to Ariel Sharon was in his extravagant militaristic record and in his aggressive image.
The gap between the right-wing positions of the majority of this public as opposed to its anti-religious positions was filled by the Shinui party, a secular party and significant Anti-orthodox party, which gained a great popularity amongst the soviet immigrants public, in spite of its left-wing tendency the Shinui party was not identified with the left.
In the elections of 2006 the "Yisrael Beiteinu" parted from the "National Union" party. The logic that stood behind this decision was that in spite of the similarities between the positions of "Yisrael Beiteinu" and "National Union" party, the two parties have two separate target audiences: while "Yisrael Beiteinu" turns mainly to the is a russian voters and to the right-wings seculars, the "National Union" party turns mainly to the religious national public and to the public of the settlers. This assumption became clear after "Yisrael Beiteinu" gained alone 11 mandates and became the second largest right-winged party after the Likud, which received only 12 mandates, while most of the mandates it received arrived of course from the target audience of the party - the immigrants from the Russian Federation.