chapter  12
20 Pages

All by myself? The paradox of citizenship among the FSU immigrants in Israel

ByMichael Philippov, Evgenia Bystrov

Since 1989 a mass migration from the Soviet Union to Israel has been unfolding. At the beginning, when the choice of a host country was available, many migrants in fact preferred to move to one of the Western developed countries such as the United States. However, the US stopped offering automatic refugee status to Soviet Jews in 1989. According to Lazin (2005), in 1989 almost 90 percent of the Soviet Jews wanted to resettle in the United States. After 1989 Israel became the only possible destination for mass Jewish immigration. During the 1990s, some million residents of the former Soviet Union arrived in Israel, increasing its population from five to six million. Most of them were highly educated and secular. The main push and pull factors of the 1990s immigration were socio-economic reasons such as poverty in the FSU and relatively favorable economic perspectives in Israel. Therefore, Israeli researchers recommended not employing the term aliya (repatriation) to these immigrants, regarding them instead as economic immigrants per se (Remennick 2007).