Jewish Journal


June 7, 2012

Israeli emigration: good for the Jews—and Israel?



Israel flag. Photo by REUTERS/Edgard Garrido

There is an old debate within the Los Angeles Jewish community over just how many Israelis call L.A. home. The number matters for many reasons, not least of which to give the organized Jewish community a sense of needs among Israelis in L.A. It’s also something that folks back in Israel might be interested in.

Israeli officials have been fretting for decades over reverse-aliyah—losing Israelis to the diaspora. But Pini Herman, a demographer who writes the Demographic Duo blog, says that rumors of mass emigration are greatly exaggerated.

Further, he argues this week in The Forward that Israel needs to “stop worrying about the yordim”. Why?

The relatively small numbers of Israeli Jews living in the United States often give expression to their commitment to Israel through a high rate of participation in communal activities.

The Israeli brain drain is also circulatory. Israel hasn’t had the technological, academic and other infrastructural resources and depth to absorb its disproportionate percentage of highly trained and skilled populace, the highest in the world after the United States. “Surplus” Israelis, talented enough to surmount significant barriers to international migration, went abroad and sometimes later attracted or repatriated with them to Israel much-needed infrastructure, such as that provided by Intel, Google, Microsoft, Alcatel and 3Com, as earlier talented Israeli generations brought back with them IBM, Motorola and Israel Aircraft Industries. Rather than being a negative for Israel, the Israeli “brain drain” and the subsequent repatriation of talent and infrastructure have enabled more of Israel’s talent to remain and return to the Jewish State.

Rather than being a problem for Israel, the Israeli-born migratory pattern has been a political and economic boon, though it remains a problem for Zionist ideology; the ideology continues to describe it by using the negative expression yerida, which is the act of descending.

Read the rest here.

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