Looking for a Better Place

By Miri -

Demographics have always played an essential role in the conflict over this piece of land. For the secular Jewish part of the country the situation is looking increasingly grim. In a forecast issued by the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) in April 2012, 44% of Israel's pupils will be Palestinian or ultra-Orthodox within the next five years. Without drastic, almost dictatorial measures to reverse current trends there are predictions about the future of Israel as being composed of

"a group of relatively young Jews with an affinity for religion, with many children and poor, a group of adults, and also elderly people in need of support, and an Arab population with many children. Will there be enough breadwinners and taxpayers among them? Will there be the workforce for conscription to the IDF and afterwards for reserve service? Will the young, the educated, and the excellent people wish to live in Israel? Who are the immigrants who in such circumstances will want to move to Israel?"
It is no secret that for a long time already, Israel has been suffering from brain-drain, a common occurrence in many so called developing countries, which describes the large-scale emigration of individuals with technical skills or knowledge and many brilliant Israeli academics in all fields were lost to universities and campuses around the globe.

Fascist graffiti in Hebron
Even more worrisome to the Zionist establishment was the more recent revelation by the same CBS, an official governmental body, that out of the 12 million residents living under Israeli rule, the number of Jews is just under 5.9 million, i.e. the non Jews already outnumber the Jewish population. These statistics basically acknowledge the fact that a Jewish minority is ruling over a non-Jewish majority.
However, much more interesting to me at this point is yet another recent, admittedly controversial poll conducted by the Yisraela Goldblum Fund, which highlighted the widespread support for discriminatory policies towards the Palestinian residents, both in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as in Israel.

The progressively frustrating economic and political situation, and an increase in right wing, and frequently even fascist attitudes held by the Jewish Israeli population is causing what Yuval Ben-Ami has termed a "heart drain":
"Israelis who hold a point of view that isn't entirely tribal, who empathize with those living under the occupation or others wronged by state-sanctioned prejudice and intolerance, Israelis who take an interest in opening difficult historical questions for discussion, are encouraged to leave".  
The official term used for the emigration of Jews from Israel is Yerida, which is literally translated as "descent", and thus as the opposite of Aliyah, (lit. "ascent"), which describes the immigration to Israel, both of which are notions deriving from the Torah. Yet according to statistics, today, not many Jews consider Israel a higher place than others.

For a long time the Yerida, the abandonment of the Zionist dream, was looked upon as a form of treason. Today however, the growing extremism, the rise of Israeli fascism has turned this dream into a nightmare for many. Today, thousands of young Israelis dream instead of re-establishing their lives somewhere else, most notably and ironically in Germany, or rather in Berlin, a step that not so long ago constituted the worst betrayal of all.
Nearly 70 years after the Holocaust, an estimated number of 15,000 Israeli expats seem to have found relative peace in the German capital. Obviously, the increasing economic hardship in their homeland also plays a crucial role for the decision to leave Israel, yet the heart-drain factor that Ben-Ami speaks about cannot be underestimated as a growing number of the already small leftist community of Jewish Israelis feels more and more anxious about a future in a state that does not seem willing to ever end the Occupation, but instead is gradually restricting their freedom of speech, as well. More and more of these people therefore take the difficult step to leave, knowing that their decision plays into the hands of the growing right wing movements.

Obviously, a state cannot survive without a skilled work force and without tax payers. But especially in the case of Israel, can there be a future without an open minded, critical, self-reflected and empathic young generation?     


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