Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Soviet Jews Pushing Israelis into Territories

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Soviet Jews Pushing Israelis into Territories

Article excerpt

The whole world, including the United States and the Soviet Union, is formally demanding that the Soviet Jews, now arriving in Israel in large numbers, not be settled in the occupied territories. In my opinion, however, this is not the major question, except as it pertains to their settling in East Jerusalem, which is proceeding very rapidly. Leaving aside the question of Jerusalem, what is important is how Jews will influence the settling of the territories by other Jews.

Soviet Jews coming to Israel are not actually settling in the territories and are not likely to settle there. This is because they constitute an urban group that is used to and prefers to live in big cities. They hate communism and anything resembling it.

This means that they hate regimentation and compulsion, and desire to experience the delights of freedom and free choice in their everyday lives. In the USSR, they were assigned apartments by the arbitrary decision of bureaucrats, while in Israel their desire and delight is to choose and to rent them by themselves.

This they can do relatively easily in the cities of their choice within Israel, since they and they alone receive from the Israeli government and The Jewish Agency a sum of money equivalent to $300, and in some cases $400, per family per month for rent, together with the agent's fee.

"Settling Agency" Assigns Flats to Soviet Jews

On the other hand, one cannot go around and look for an apartment to rent in the territories. The settling of Jews there is also a bureaucratic process, just as in the USSR. A "settling agency" determines to which settlement one will be sent, and assigns a particular flat to each settler.

Some Soviet Jews call this process communism," and they may not be far from wrong. As one who has heard a group of newly arrived Soviet Jews exclaiming "Oh, we're in Paradise!" on entering my own supermarket in West Jerusalem, I am sure it would be very difficult to compel them to live in places which do not offer such sights. If we add their desire for other urban amenities and their fear of the intifada, we must conclude that their settling in the territories is quite improbable in the foreseeable future.

However, the present Israeli government wants to settle many Jews in the territories even more than the former one did. It can use the Soviet Jewish immigrants to accelerate the process, but in an indirect, and much more dangerous, way.

The subsidies given to Soviet Jews for their housing raise the price of housing for young Israeli-Jewish couples to impossible heights. They do not receive any subsidies for rent, and only a very small one for buying a house. If the process is not opposed, the subsidies to Soviet immigrants will force more young Jews presently living in Israel to settle in the territories in order to find alternative housing.

"Why are We Being Pushed There?"

In fact, in Jerusalem, where the highest housing incentives are granted to Soviet Jews, a new organization of young Jews was founded in May to oppose this process. …

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