Russian Israelis Are Leaving Promised Land for Putin's Russia

Many Russian Jews who arrived to Israel in the Putin era are finding it difficult to settle and are opting to go back to Russia

Sat, Apr 15, 2017 | 10263 Comments

An interesting phenomenon is taking place in Israel. Russian Jews are leaving, often to go back to Russia.

Not all of them of course. Mainly it is the most recent arrivals. They are different from the typical arrivals from Russia in the late 1980s and the early 1990s in that they tend to be more affluent. In some cases their migration has been motivated more by politics (opposition to Putin's third term) than search of economic opportunities.

Also these recent arrivals know and remember Russia not only as the poverty-stricken disaster it was in the 1990s, but also as the much more functional and consumerist society of the present.

Now enough of them are leaving that the Israelis daily Haaretz set to explore why that is so. It spoke to a number of such immigrants and reported impressions in a piece titled Why members of the 'Putin aliyah' are abandoning Israel. 

The entire article is worth reading and to tempt you to do that we'll reproduce one of the liveliest bits here:

Unlike the others I interviewed – who loved Israel but didn't feel they could live there – Anton (not his real name), 39, says he is disgusted with Israel from an ideological perspective. A former journalist who now works in public relations, he came to Israel in 2015 with his wife and four children, and left about a year later.

“I came to the conclusion that Israel is a fascist state,” he says. “I don’t want to live in a country like that. I realized that nothing was going to change for the better here. An important factor in my decision to leave Russia was the desire to go with my children to a free country. And no, Israel is not a free country. I do not want to participate in what is happening here and have to take the moral responsibility for it. I am absolutely not interested in moving from the frying pan into the fire." 

"Without doubt Russia is an authoritarian country, but it is not a fascistic country. In Russia, it doesn’t matter what your surname is, what the shape of your nose is and what your name is, as long as you speak Russian reasonably well. In the middle class circles I travel in, people don’t care about this. It doesn’t matter whether I am Jewish, Tatar, Kalmyk, Dagestani or Arab. In Israel, it does matter.”

Alongside the ideological reasons, Anton also lists more practical reasons for leaving Israel: His family ended up in the West Bank settlement of Ariel and his attempts to find work there in his profession – PR and writing copy – were not successful. He worked at a factory and other blue-collar jobs, his wife didn't work and they lived in semi-austerity. In contrast, there were many potential jobs awaiting Anton back in Russia, offering good salaries. Indeed, he started working at one of those jobs about a month after his return to Russia.

He doesn't conceal his bitterness toward the attitude he encountered from veteran members of the Russian-speaking community in Israel. “In the Russian army, if it turns out you are a Muscovite they immediately punch you in the face," he says. "

In Israel, the attitude is similar. If people discover you are a Muscovite, they treat you with a certain coldness. In principle, they can also punch you – it’s no problem for them. For some reason, they think we are a kind of privileged class of superior beings who, now we are in Israel, have to eat a bit of shit together with them. And they won't hesitate to shove a plate of it under your nose.”

Apparently you can take a Russian out of Russia, but they'll always want to punch a Muscovite in the nose.