Sunday, April 2, 2017

Olim L'Berlin / עולים לברלין

Hey guys!
So recently I decided that I want to start sharing some of my academic creations that I'm proud of or enjoyed creating with you all.
I'll start by sharing some research I did on the growing Israeli community of Berlin, Germany, a particularly fascinating one.

Hope you enjoy.

What factors influence Israeli migration to Berlin?

Berlin’s growing Israeli community represents an anomaly for many. Though it has sported a significant Jewish population for a long time, the presence of a large Israeli community is a recent feature in Berlin, and its status as the fastest-growing Jewish community in the world causes it to stand out as something quite unique. Its growth has been influenced by a variety of logistical, security, and identity-related developments within both societies that render the nature of its existence a unique and, indeed, almost contradictory, intersection of national, religious, and ethnic identities.

Migration studied:
Estimations of the number of Israelis residing in Germany vary between 8,000 and 25,000, but most of them indesputably live in and around Berlin. The city’s “cosmopolitan flair, vibrant arts scene, and public transportation” are widely cited as key reasons for their attraction. Furthermore, many of the Israeli citizens committing this yerida (Hebrew for ‘descent,’ the opposite of ‘aliyah,’ ‘ascension,’ or immigration to Israel) are artists, filmmakers, sculptors, and musicians, many of whom feel that Berlin’s art scene and calm nature make for a more conducive and welcoming environment for their artistic development and output compared to their politically tense, war-torn homeland. This creative class constituting the vast majority of Berlin’s Israeli expatriate community is often designated as the sort who “made Tel Aviv cool,” many of them being young and single. Given that permanent yerida, especially concerning beliefs seen as anti-Zionist, is seen at home as an inherently treacherous act, the presence of so many such emigres, in the German capital no less, is often denounced as a mutinous brain drain by religious and right-wing Israeli society.

Theoretical Framework:
The Israeli community constitutes only a fraction of the most recent Jewish arrivals. In the years following their collapse, approximately 200,000 Jews emigrated to Germany from the former Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, particularly Russia. According to a law passed between the fall of the Berlin Wall and reunification, Soviet Jews could resettle in East Germany with proof of their local ancestry. The large influx of Russian speakers has left the previously small and close-knit community of native German Jews whose local presence predated the Holocaust feeling unsettled, leading to tense dynamics of demographic power shifts in which the newcomers are viewed with xenophobic skepticism.
From Germany’s overall population of 250,000 it is estimated that 25,000 are Israeli citizens. Specific numbers can be difficult to pinpoint, as Germany does not count anyone holding a European passport (which many Israeli newcomers obtain) as a foreigner, and Israel does not count anyone who returns to visit within a year as an emigrant. Aside from greater security, freedom for content creators, and reasonable cost of living, numerous Israeli newcomers have cited the potential to obtain a European passport as an incentive. The law, any Israeli citizen able to prove that their ancestors suffered persecution by the Nazis is elligible to receive German citizenship. Over 100,000 Israelis hold German citizenship, and the number increases by about 7,000 annually.
Another significant pull towards Berlin has been that many queer Israelis feel the city makes for an environment more tolerant of their identities than their homeland. Israel struck down the legalization of civil unions in 2013, with homophobia and transphobia still being prevalent. Many marginalized queer Israelis, ironically in union with anti-Zionist critics, claim that the State of Israel engages in massive pinkwashing of its queer rights record to bolster its progressive image in western eyes. Many of the individuals forming this new queer Israeli diaspora, particularly in Berlin, feel “non-identification with Israeli society, which they see as aggressive, sexist, and militarist, and non-identification with Israel’s mainstream [leftist but still Zionist] LGBTQ community.” Many of these individuals belonged to radical left-wing organizations at home, and cite frustration at their inability to enact change as a reason for their yerida.

Historical Consequences:
The very existence of Berlin’s Israeli community highlights obvious shifts in the relations between the two countries. The first Israeli passports bore the distinction “valid to every country except Germany,” a distinction which was removed definitively in 1952. These shifts have manifested themselves further through informal interpersonal connections as well, with Berlin transforming from “(neo-)Nazi-central” to trendy vacation spot in Israeli eyes in a space of less than five years.
Given the hardline Zionist rhetoric pegging yerida as a betrayal by nature, this affinity towards Berlin, with such notable proportions going as far as to seek German citizenship to facilitate European residency and travel, is seen even more contentiously. Some scathingly remark that “they would rather live in the country that murdered six million of their ancestors than live in the failed Zionist project.”
The queer contingent of the growing Israeli community holds a unique intersectional position within Germany as being “offspring of two groups persecuted in Holocaust,” revealing an often masked side of their homeland, and fleeing the very stallwartness and chaotic apathy which they see as dooming it.

As a growing center of culture and diversity on the European continent, Berlin has begun to house, foster, and project new and unprecedented intersections of German identity. The various elements of its growing Jewish community represent a particularly unique example, especially in the context of the many Israeli citizens among them. The creative and vivacious union which they have created in the Grey City is one defiant and contradictory in its very existence, a double affront to the governments at play. Mixed marriages and Hebrew-speaking Jewish kindergartens move forward its unlikely existence and dynamic nature, a beguling and fascinating feature taking its place in the heart of Germany.

Thanks for reading!

A picture of the actual poster

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