Jewish Emigration Patterns Confound the Planners

Article excerpt

Jewish Emigration Patterns Confound the Planners

Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Gaza are (along with the ultimate disposition of Jerusalem) the major stumbling block to an Israeli-Palestinian peace that could give the entire Middle East its first breathing spell since the end of World War II. The patterns of Jewish emigration, therefore, are a matter of international rather than purely sectarian interest.

For starters, in the United States, where nearly half the world's Jews now live, intermarriage with non-Jews has reached 52 percent, according to staff writer Na'ama Batya Lewin, writing in the Washington Jewish Week. A very small percentage of the children of such marriages are raised as Jews.

The fear of intermarriage often is cited as a major reason for emigration of American and Canadian Jews to Israel. Although such emigration climbed by nearly 40 percent from 1992, it still was a miniscule 3,957 in 1993. At present, there are said to be some 130,000 American Jews living in Israel, comprising about 3 percent of the Jewish population there.

Some of the most liberal and tolerant Israeli citizens are of American origin. Ironically, so are some of the most radical and bigoted among the Jewish settlers in occupied areas. Fifteen percent of those Jewish settlers are American.

"Israel has become a dumping ground for some of the dreck (trash) of American Jewry," according to Allon Gal, professor of American Jewish history at Ben-Gurion University in Beersheva. "They came in the 1980s in an atmosphere created by the Likud Party, which gave them the feeling that people could live here like the white man in America 200 years ago with the Indians. Except instead of Indians they are Palestinians."

Of the North American Jewish emigrants to Israel, nearly half were from the New York area. By contrast, some 500,000 Israelis live or work in the United States, 200,000 of them in New York, according to staff writer Daniel Schifrin of The Jewish Week of Queens, New York.

Many estimates place the number of Israeli Jews living in the U.S. at 600,000 or more. The reason for the discrepancy is that Israel counts its former Jewish residents as part of its population, so long as they return for a visit at least once every four years. …