Immigration to Israel: Sociological Perspectives

Article excerpt

Immigration to Israel: Sociological Perspectives

This is the eighth volume in the Studies of Israeli Society publication series of the Israeli Sociological Society. As in previous volumes, the edition under review gathers together recent articles from a variety of professional journals. The focus of this collection is on recent trends in Israeli immigration covering the period from 1980 to 1995. During this period the most significant wave of newcomers came from the former Soviet Union, with almost 700,000 arriving between 1989 and 1995. Needless to say, this aliya has made a marked impact on Israeli society. Today almost 40 percent of the total Israeli Jewish population are immigrants. Russians have overtaken Moroccans as the largest "ethnic" group. The new immigrants, especially those from the former Soviet Union, have followed a different pattern of integration into the existing social and political framework of Israeli society than previous immigrants have. They brought with them professional skills and political savvy, making an almost immediate impact on the receiving society. Given the magnitude of immigration from the former Soviet Union it is understandable that they would receive the broadest coverage in this volume. Still, other groups, whose immigration and absorption diverge from past trends, such as the Ethiopians and Iranians, receive some coverage. The demographic, cultural, and political impact of recent immigration makes this is a timely contribution and a valuable addition to the libraries of everyone interested in understanding Israeli society.

The essays are grouped in sections by category: two introductory chapters, followed by sections on Migrants in the Occupational Structure, Migration and Health, Formal and Informal Mechanisms of Integration, Ethnic Identities and Processes of Integration, and Processes of Emigration and Their Implications. The two introductory chapters, the only two original pieces, are especially valuable. In the first chapter the editors, Shuval and Leshem, provide a wide-ranging critical assessment of the last twenty years of the sociology of Israeli immigration. They contextualize current scholarship in the history of the development of Israeli sociology and within the theoretical framework of international scholarship on migration. I was pleased that, while not ignoring the uniqueness of some aspects of Israeli immigration patterns and immigrant integration, they acknowledge the comparability of Israel to other immigrant receiving societies. In the second introductory essay, DellaPergola provides a comprehensive view of the context Jewish migration patterns that is both globally comparative and particular to Israel as an immigrant receiving society. These two essays taken together provide a useful framework for the book.

As in most volumes of this nature, the twenty-two essays that follow are uneven in quality and usefulness. Some of the articles, because of their specialized subject matter or complex statistical methodology, will be of little interest to anyone but the few who share the authors' particular expertise. …