Jewish Journal

Israelis Uninterested in Moving Abroad Because of Gaza Fighting and Greater Missile Exposure

by Pini Herman

November 26, 2012 | 1:14 pm

Very few ready to leave

Will Israeli Jews be leaving Israel as a result of the hundreds of missiles fired into Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense  Israel Defense Forces (IDF) operation in the Gaza Strip from 14 to 21 November 2012? Indicators point to no. 

If an measure of interest in a Wikipedia entry on Yerida, emigration from Israel, is an indirect indicator of the likelihood of migration, then the answer is that the recent bombardment caused only a fleeting interest in emigration, but nothing lasting or significant.  Israeli native-born Jews are not showing signs of making plans to relocate to other countries in in any significant numbers.

Israel has a high retention rate of it’s Jewish native-born residents, it retains 96 percent of its native-born Israeli Jews as compared to an average retention to comparable countries of 92 percent.  A favorite topic of academics is what level of military threat or violence causes migration and exodus? The Pillar of Defense operation hardly merits a blip on the migratory radar screen. 

The Pillar of Defense military operation, smaller in scope but similar to operations initiated by Israel before five of the last six Knesset elections since 2006, has not caused many Israelis to consider emigration abroad. This curious Israeli phenomenon where conflict is perceived as a "natural component" of Israeli life has been documented in a study of Israeli emigration from 1948 to the 1980s by sociologist Baruch Kimmerling.

As of November 30, 2012


Even the new experience, for additional millions of Israelis in the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas, of being subjected to missile fire, alarms and sirens for eight days has not brought about migratory preparations abroad.  Israeli were observed fleeing to local bomb shelters, but not fleeing the region under attack as happened in the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah War.

This initial indication of no real change in Israeli attitudes as expressed in interest in leaving Israel is consistent with and a continuation of  Kimmerling's analysis first published almost thirty years ago (1984) where he pointed out low motivation to emigrate as compared to other nations.  In his 1984 article "The Interrupted System: Israeli Civilians in War and Routine Times" Kimmerling explained:

Since its earliest. formative stages. Israel has never known peace. security or political calm. The process of partial adoption of conflict into the routine operation of the social system has served in many ways as a functional equivalent of ‘peace’ rendered possible because of the following circumstances:

  • a. The prolonged continuation of the conflict. which leads to its perception as ‘destiny’. thereby introducing it as a ‘natural’ component of life.
  • b. The ability to differentiate - mentally as well as institutionally - between active warfare and other conflict periods and patterns.
  • c. Rapid social and military mobilization capability as developed by military reserve and social interruption systems.
  • d. The objective and subjective cost-benefit balance of the conflict. which made the various burdens bearable by individuals and by society as a whole. On economic grounds. this derived from the fact that a considerable portion of the military expenditures was financed through external sources.

This latest Pillar of Defense operation has demonstrated that Kimmerling's analysis is still applicable a generation after it was formulated.

Pini Herman, PhD. has served as Asst. Research Professor at the University of Southern California Dept. of Geography,  Adjunct Lecturer at the USC School of Social Work,  Research Director at the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles following Bruce Phillips, PhD. in that position (and author of the “most recent” 15 year old study of the LA Jewish population which was the third most downloaded study from Berman Jewish Policy Archive in 2011) and is a past President of the Movable Minyan a lay-lead independent congregation in the 3rd Street area. Currently he is a principal of Phillips and Herman Demographic Research. To email Pini: pini00003@gmail.com To follow Pini on Twitter:

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Bruce Phillips is Professor of Sociology and Jewish Communal Studies at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles. He has conducted Jewish population...

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