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Self-exiled Israelis in Berlin now number 20,000

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Yair Lapid says Jews can live nowhere else but Israel

Yair Lapid

More on that story that won’t go away: Israelis moving to Berlin, now 20,000 strong. A lightning rod for rightwingers like Yair Lapid, the self-exile from the Jewish state raises all sorts of questions about the reforestation of Jews in Europe and the Jewish ideal of living as an empowered minority in a diverse liberal society. And yes, too, the right of return to a society that ethnically cleansed your people, Ashkenazi Jews.

In Haaretz, an Israeli-turned-Berliner, Tal Alon, says that she started a Hebrew magazine in Berlin a year back because of the “‘exciting thing that is happening here,’ referring to the growing Israeli community in Berlin – now about 20,000 strong – that recently prompted criticism from Finance Minister Yair Lapid.”

Finance Minister Lapid said a month ago that Israelis were moving to Berlin because it’s easier financially and they should think twice; Alon says that’s not why.

“I moved for the experience, the adventure; to satisfy the will to broaden my horizons.”

After two years in Berlin, Alon established Spitz in order to connect the local German and Israeli communities. The magazine’s goal isn’t to keep the community in an isolated bubble, she says, but rather to “serve as a bridge for Hebrew speakers in the Berlin landscape.” The name Spitz (literally, sharp tip) is one sort of connection: “It’s a word that moved from German – and some claim from Yiddish – to Hebrew.”
Alon is yet to find the financial model that would secure future issues of the magazine, which is currently based on the work of 50 individuals – writers, photographers, editors and distributors – most of whom do not receive any pay. At present it is distributed free of charge to 250 subscribers, and a further 1,750 copies are distributed at Jewish and Israeli businesses throughout the city.

Has this story been on 60 Minutes yet? What about Walt and Mearsheimer, they haven’t been on 60 Minutes, and their book just never goes away.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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22 Responses

  1. annie on November 2, 2013, 10:38 am

    the video at the second link mentions 100,000 israelis have german passports.

  2. Krauss on November 2, 2013, 10:43 am

    50% of Israeli children under the age of 10 are either Haredim or Arab, both with bleak employment prospects. In the case of the Haredim, self-imposed. In the case of the Arab-Israelis, imposed from the outsided by a scared Jewish establishment which fears an empowered Arab minority.

    Either way, this leaves a much smaller share of the future tax base. We’re not going to see a massive wave of Aliyah of Jews to Israel anymore. That ship has passed. You may see some from places like France, for instance. But most of them never quite leave. They get Israeli passports and live two lives. Never quite letting go of la Belle.

    So while 20,000 might not sound a lot, these are the upper-middle class young Israelis with typically a good education. They represent the top 20% of the country in terms of employment prospects, so them missing is hurt even more. How many people between the ages of 25 and 35 does Israel have? Maybe 800,000. And this is the top 20%. That’s about 160,000 in that age group. 20,000 represents about 12.5%, which seems reasonable if you look at Israel’s emigration statistics(which is around 14%, top3 in the world). And this is just Berlin. We have Australia, the U.S, Canada and Great Britain, too.

    And it also signifies the long-awaited normalization of Israel in terms of the Jewish psyche. People are now talking about Israel helping the diaspora to help retain its Jewish character. Jews who are now 12 years old or less don’t really remember the 2nd intifada. It ended when they were 1 years old.

    They will grow up in a state which is much safer for them, where Palestinians are shut off from their existance and where Israel simply isn’t threatened military the way it used to be. In such an environment, things like paid workdays off for a new child will be rated that much higher, the price of living and so on. Israel will always be there and will not really need their help that much. So you’ll see a corresponding exodus, which is increasing.

    For all the talk about Israel and new alliances in the East, young educated Israelis are voting with their feet. Do you see a mass exodus to India or China? If the Arab spring taught us anything, it’s that the feelings of the people matter a lot more than the feelings of the leaders, in the long run.

    • Krauss on November 2, 2013, 11:16 am

      By the way, I found a great background article written by the same woman.

      And according to a Times of Israel article from September last year, the Germany embassy in Israel issues 3000 new passports each year to Israelis. The net gain is not 3000 because you have emigration back, of course, but there is still a net gain. The Israeli embassay estimated the number to be 10,000, but independent sources asked by the Times of Israel said it’s more likely 15,000 or a bit higher – and this was last year.

      So now it’s 20,000. So it is growing very fast.

    • Keith on November 2, 2013, 4:02 pm

      KRAUSS- “They represent the top 20% of the country in terms of employment prospects….”

      Would I be correct in assuming that they are overwhelmingly Ashkenazi? I suspect that Mizrahi Jews might be less welcome, even by the Ashkenazi expats.

  3. German Lefty on November 2, 2013, 12:15 pm

    It is really no surprise that Yair Lapid opposes the right of return. He rejects the Jewish right of return to Germany in the same way as he rejects the Palestinian right of return to historic Palestine. At least, we can give him some credit for consistency.

    And yes, too, the right of return to a society that ethnically cleansed your people, Ashkenazi Jews.
    I object to the phrasing! The society of present-day Germany is NOT the same society that existed in Nazi Germany. We are different people in a different time and a different state. Associating us with the ethnic cleansers of the past is quite offensive.

    The magazine’s goal isn’t to keep the community in an isolated bubble, she says, but rather to “serve as a bridge for Hebrew speakers in the Berlin landscape.”
    I am not really convinced of the magazine’s goal. Instead of providing foreigners with information in their native language, they should be encouraged to learn the local language. When Hebrew-language media are available, then there’s no incentive for them to integrate and learn German. Having separate media for Israelis is segregation and leads to parallel societies. If that’s what they want, they should go back to Israel.

  4. Obsidian on November 2, 2013, 1:35 pm

    If you’re born in Podunk, Iowa and aspire to play in a philharmonic orchestra, you move to Chicago, New York or L.A.

    So what’s the big deal if young, ambitious Israelis move in order to broaden their horizons?

    • ivri on November 3, 2013, 2:49 am

      Exactly, there is no need to look for political motives or aspects in everything. Berlin became attractive to many with intellectual and artistic inclinations – it is a symbol of Germany`s makeover especially given its central role in Nazi Germany. Global political and economic power-games have moved elsewhere and the city has been freed to indulge in other things.

  5. upsidedownism on November 2, 2013, 1:44 pm

    Interesting Aljazeera Documentary on Israelis abroad, many of whom live in Germany.

    • MahaneYehude1 on November 3, 2013, 3:48 pm

      @upside: The documentary starts in Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, a good place to hear many different Israelis opinions. In general, a very good documentary shows the nice face of the young Israelis, their inner conflicts, their desire for justice and peace, politically and socially. Wonderful people.

  6. German Lefty on November 2, 2013, 2:29 pm

    By the way, I just discovered this brand-new German documentary titled “Anti-Semitism today – How anti-Jewish is Germany?” It aired this week on the state channel ARD.
    German speakers can watch it here:
    I didn’t watch it yet. However, I read the Spiegel article about it.
    The article claims that anti-Semitism is widespread in Germany, that not just neo-Nazis and Muslim Germans are anti-Semitic but also a lot of centrists and academics. Then it says that anti-Semitism is often disguised as negative criticism of Israel. At the end, the author asks: “Where does the hatred come from?” If I didn’t know better, I would think that the article is satire. Many people complained in the comments section about the false equation of Israel criticism with anti-Semitism. One commenter wrote: “Does Spiegel Online even know the difference between Semitism, Zionism, and Judaism as well as its respective opposites?”
    In the documentary, Henryk M. Broder (Zionist German Jew) also gets to bash the poem of Günter Grass. Clearly, the goal of the documentary is to intimidate us Germans into keeping our mouths shut about Israel’s crimes.

    • German Lefty on November 2, 2013, 2:43 pm

      Also, the article says: “In search of hostilities that come from the so-called midst of society, the linguist Monika Schwarz-Friesel assessed more than 14,000 e-mails that were sent to the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Israeli embassy.”
      Of course, these two institutions are openly and extremely Zionist. So, who are the real haters here?

    • Keith on November 2, 2013, 4:04 pm

      GERMAN LEFTY- “Clearly, the goal of the documentary is to intimidate us Germans into keeping our mouths shut about Israel’s crimes.”

      That is exactly right! This is not a sign of distress from a weak and defenseless group of victims. This is a tactic of intimidation by a powerful group seeking to control the discourse. A tactic, I might add, which may well contribute to a self-fulfilling prophesy.

    • bilal a on November 3, 2013, 8:41 am

      I have friends whose German parents were in American concentration camps after the war, one was a teenage girl at the time and she fled to the USA to escape the occupation, its hunger, physical dangers, and cultural moral degradation. As Irving Kristol observed:

      “My wartime experience in Germany,” he recalled, had “the effect of dispelling any remnants of antiauthority sentiments … that were cluttering up my mind. My fellow soldiers were too easily inclined to loot, to rape, and to shoot prisoners of war. Only army vigilance kept them in check.” He felt sympathy for the civilian population of the enemy nation: “observing German women and young girls, living among the rubble and selling their bodies for a few packs of cigarettes … rid me of any anti-German feeling which, as a Jew, might otherwise have been present in me.” What’s more, “I was not so convinced that the American soldiers I knew were a different breed of humanity from their German counterparts.”

      I wonder if the children of the 10 million dead Germans during WW2 who fled as refugees from the allied onslaught have the right to return so facilitated as their Israeli counterparts.

      And what will be the cultural influence of these ex settlers on German society?

      Berlin’s largest mosque targeted in hate crime attack

    • German Lefty on November 4, 2013, 3:36 pm

      My comments on the documentary:
      1st scene: a group of German guys in a football stadium shout the word “Judenschweine” (Jew pigs)
      2nd scene: a researcher claims that 25% of Germans feel antipathy towards Jews, find Jews unlikeable and perceive Jewishness as foreign
      3rd scene: footage from the Night of Broken Glass
      The first 13 minutes of the documentary deal with actual anti-Semitism by the tiny group of neo-Nazis that exists in Germany. Apparently, these people know the laws very well, what they are allowed to say or sing and what not. Then, the Jewish owner of a kosher restaurant is interviewed. He says that he receives some anti-Semitic comments and threats. However, he concludes that the positive experiences far outweigh the negative experiences.
      Then, the documentary deals with supposedly anti-Semitic e-mails written by regular people to “Jewish institutions” in Germany. The linguist who examined the e-mails presents an e-mail from a high school student to the Israeli embassy as example (13:20). The first part of the e-mail reads: “Dear Mr. Mor, you visited our school in order to advertise Israel. If all Jews are like you, then we now know why the German past happened as it happened. Most students in our class found you repulsive.” However, only the second sentence is highlighted and read aloud in the documentary. The first sentence about Israel is entirely ignored. The linguist explains that the vast majority of people who write to the Israeli embassy and the Central Council of Jews in Germany are not extremists but moderates and academics. She claims that these people are “educated anti-Semites who always deny that they are anti-Semites”. She also states that “these Germans claim to have learnt from the past” and that “they now play the moralizers and want to tell the Central Council what it does wrong”. Obviously, the linguist refers to the Central Council’s support for Israeli policies. However, she didn’t say it explicitly because then she couldn’t pretend anymore that the e-mails are anti-Semitic.
      At 19:00, there’s footage from a peaceful anti-Zionist demonstration. We see a Syrian flag, a Lebanon flag, some Iranian flags, many Palestinian flags, signs with photos of victims in Gaza, a banner with the slogan “Zionists get out of Jerusalem”, and another banner that says “Merkel! No collaboration with the Israeli war criminals”. A further banner reads “MDU”. That’s the very small political party “Muslim Democratic Union”. Some of the demonstrators shout “child murderer Israel”. Then, the narrator says: “They shout ‘child murderer Israel’. This is reminiscent of the old prejudice that Jews are child murderers. We are in Berlin on Quds Day. Once a year, this day gives a forum for calling for the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel.” Then, there is a sign that says “Israeli products – No, thanks!” and a sign with the slogan “Günter Grass said what had to be said!” The narrator tells us: “Here, we also see pictures of the left-wing Israel boycott movement and of Günter Grass. An attempt to ally to the German majority society.” This statement really surprised me. The documentary openly declares that the German mainstream is anti-Israel. Usually, this fact is ignored in the MSM. The narrator goes on: “People shouting ‘Allah’. Hisbollah flags. A highly explosive mixture. Where does legitimate criticism end and anti-Semtism begin? The police imposed clear conditions. That’s why the demonstrators were instructed by the organiser about what they are not allowed to say or do.” Then, the Palestinian Israeli Ahmad Mansour is interviewed. He seriously claims that all the demonstrators are Jew-haters. The narrator says: “Jew-hatred? But they talk about Zionists, not about Jews.” One of the demonstators is interviewed. She states that the issues are money and land. This is interpreted as proof that the demonstrators are actually anti-Semitic. Then, the narrator seriously wonders: “Why is this demonstration even allowed?” The documentary informs us that there are 300,000 Muslims and 12,000 Jews in Berlin. We also learn that Ahmad Mansour works for a project that fights “anti-Semitism” among Muslim youths in Germany. The teenagers learn about the Holocaust, are taken to Auschwitz, and are introduced to the Zionist narrative about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It looks like this indoctrination is successful. The teenagers say that they don’t believe the Palestinian narrative anymore.
      At 32:00, a researcher claims that because anti-Semitism is officially taboo nowadays, people find new and indirect ways to express their hidden anti-Semitism. At 32:30, we see footage from a Roger Waters concert in Germany. He put the Star of David on a black pig and then shoots at it. The narrator says: “Roger Waters thinks that his performance is legitimate criticism of Israel, although he doesn’t use the Israel flag but the Star of David.” Now, the documentary deals with the question: “What does Israel criticism have to do with anti-Semitism?” A researcher claims that much of the negative criticism of Israel includes stereotypes about Jews. At 35:00, Henryk M. Broder is interviewed about the poem by Günter Grass. He states: “Grass says something that could at best be perceived as nonsense. However, people who think like Grass understand this nonsense in the way Grass meant it, namely anti-Semitic.” Then, it is mentioned that Jakob Augstein agrees with the content of the poem. A passage of one of his articles is quoted: “‘The nuclear power Israel threatens the fragile world peace.’ – This sentence caused an outcry. Because it is correct.” The narrator adds: “This is the revival of the anti-Semitic stereotype of the Jew as warmonger.” The next Augstein quote: “Gaza is a prison. A camp.” The narrator comments: “This is a comparison between Israelis and Nazis.” A further Augstein quote: “The Netanyahu government has the whole world on a string of a swelling war song.” (somehow like that) The narrator explains: “These are new words for the old prejudice of a Jewish world conspiracy.” Now, we are informed that both Günter Grass and Jakob Augstein rejected the interview request. Broder mentions “left-wing anti-Semitism”. At 37:25, the narrator says: “Two intellectuals publicly express what many think.” Now, opinion polls are cited: “70% agree with the statement that Israel pursues its interests without regard for other countries.” and “57% believe that Israel wages a war of extermination against the Palestinians.” At 37:50, the narrator says: “‘Viva Palestina’ – activists call for a boycott of Israeli products worldwide. Now, the initially left-wing boycott movement is supported by all political camps.” We see a photo of a shopping trolley with a sign that says: “Stop the war. Boycott Israeli products.” Another poster says: “Against apartheid. Yesterday South Africa, today Israel. Boycott Israel.” The narrator continues: “Israel is defamed as apartheid state.” Now, we see a placard that shows a Star of David with a swastika in it. The narrator explains: “This is a message that the NPD can identify with, too.” We are informed that the regional NPD proposed a motion for clearly labelling Palestinian and Israeli products. The narrator tells us that six months later the Greens made a request in the Bundestag about proper labelling, too. Then he wonders: ” Consumer protection as political weapon or perhaps anti-Semitism?” At 40:00, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany is interviewed. He says: “In this way, Israel – and Israel alone – is put in the pillory. In the world, there are numerous contested areas. This is done nowhere else. Look at Tibet. For example, the Dalai Lama would refuse to admit that Tibet belongs to China. Nevertheless, all products from Tibet are labelled as ‘Made in China’. Nobody is upset about this. The difference is 7 million Israelis but 1.3 billion Chinese.” The narrator says: “If there are different standards for Israel and for Jews than for the rest of the world, then this is anti-Semitism. And there are many examples for this, for instance one-sided criticism, defaming Israel as dictatorship.” Further poll results are cited: “38.4% say that due to Israel’s policies they can understand if people have something against Jews.” and “40,5% agree with the statement that Israel treats the Palestinians in principle like the Nazis treated the Jews.” and “13% say that Israel has no right to exist in the Near East.” Now, the linguist tells us that there are so many terrible states where women have no rights and where there are no human rights and no free press, things that don’t happen in Israel. So, why the negative criticism of Israel? Then, we see the slogan “Israel means genocide.” The narrator concludes that negative criticism of Israel is the new way to express anti-Semitism. We see a juxtaposition of two photos. The left photo shows the Nazi boycott of Jewish products. The right photo shows the anti-Zionist boycott of Israeli products. The narrator says: “Boycott today and yesterday. The left-wingers and centrists don’t want to have anything to do with the right-wing extremists. And the right-wing extremists don’t want to have anything to do with the Muslims. However, they have one thing in common: Israel as enemy.”
      My summary: Roughly 15 minutes of the documenty dealt with actual anti-Semitism. The other 30 minutes were used to brand anti-Zionism and even “liberal Zionism” as anti-Semitism. I am totally furious.

  7. MahaneYehude1 on November 2, 2013, 5:42 pm

    GL: “Clearly, the goal of the documentary is to intimidate us Germans into keeping our mouths shut about Israel’s crimes”

    No, this is not the goal of the documentary. Please, watch the video and see by yourself that there is pure anti-Semitism in Germany without any connection to Israel’s policy like Anti-Semite attack on Jewish restaurant (9:10), attack 0n Synagogue (11:24), Anti-Semite messages sent by email (14:27), old stereotypes of Jews (18:38) and many more examples. Also, the video shows two Anti-Semites sheikhs that speak against the Jews, not the Israelis (28:45 and 29:20 – very hard to listen). In several parts, there is reference to Israel’s policy criticism and to the idea (of the documentary producer) that anti-Semitism is sometimes disguised as negative criticism of Israel policy. Please note the Israeli-Palestinian Mansur.

    I will be glad to hear your opinion after you take your time and watch it.

    • Ellen on November 4, 2013, 4:01 pm

      MY1, Seek and ye shall find.

      Let me see. There is lots of Anti-Bavarianism in Germany. Attacks in the beer halls.

      And no one likes the Rheinlanders with all their stupid jokes and schwätzing. And the Catholics! Where they live is referred to as Schwartzland. A good Prussian does not trust ’em.

      Now if you really want to find antagonism of a group, it is those Saarländer. Poor, sparsely populated with those who are not real Germans — they mixed in too much with the French, you know.

      And let’s not forget the Ossies. Always moaning, always looking for the handout. You’ll find many Germans in both east and west who would be happy to put the wall back up.

      A documentary can be made how everyone is anti-everyone. If that is what you you want to find, that is.

      • MahaneYehude1 on November 4, 2013, 4:32 pm


        “A documentary can be made how everyone is anti-everyone. If that is what you you want to find, that is”

        In the past, several friends here sent me videos show racist Israelis and claimed that Israel is a racist state and the Israelis are racist society. All my explanations that their are several racist groups in Israel, like in any other countries, but they don’t represent the entire society and they are regarded criminals in Israel, were rejected. So, I think this documentary supports my claim. please, note that I didn’t write “Germany is a racist state” or “German are racists” since I sure those people don’t represent the entire German people and they are a fringe. I visited Germany, especially Frankfurt AM and Heidelberg, and I have good memories from the people and country.

    • German Lefty on November 4, 2013, 4:14 pm

      @ MahaneYehude1

      Do you seriously want to tell me that the Arab-Jewish potato seller from Israel speaks German well enough to understand the documentary?
      I just finished watching it. My summary can be found in a different post. As I said, most of the documentary was about depicting anti-Zionists and “liberal Zionists” as anti-Semites. Actually, you can’t call this a documentary. It’s a Zionist propaganda film. As it was produced for a state channel, the German people even funded this propaganda film against their will. The BDS movement was mentioned several times. This indicates that it has become successful enough that it can’t be ignored anymore by the Zionists. Also, the documentary informs the viewers that the German mainstream is anti-Israel. This is the first time, that I have heard it being openly admitted on TV. Apparently, the media realised that they can’t hide this fact any longer. That’s why they went on the offensive and smeared pretty much all Germans as anti-Semites for daring to speak out against Israel’s human rights violations. The documentary clearly claimed that there’s German anti-Semitism on the right, on the left, in the centre, and among the Muslims. In short: Absolutely everywhere. The message of the documentary: “All the Germans have conspired against the tiny Jewish state. How dare you do that? Back off and remember the Holocaust!” I think that such a documentary achieves exactly the opposite. The people get even angrier. Günter Grass, Jakob Augstein and also the anti-circumcision ruling really made a difference and emboldened the German people to speak out. The documentary seeks to destroy this bit of new-found confidence. However, I think that’s too late. The train has left the station.

      • RoHa on November 4, 2013, 9:23 pm

        “Do you seriously want to tell me that the Arab-Jewish potato seller from Israel speaks German well enough to understand the documentary?”

        He speaks Hebrew and Arabic, writes English with varying levels of competence, and tosses in Latin tags at random intervals, so why not German as well?

  8. Nevada Ned on November 3, 2013, 1:57 am

    I recall reading that in Germany (not just Berlin), the number of Jews is about 300,000. Which is about the same as the number around 1940. Some are from Israel, some from Russia or other Eastern bloc countries (and some moved from Russia to Israel, and then to Germany).

    Jews moving to Israel is an embarrassment to the Israeli government. Evidently this migration shows that some Jews feel safe enough in Germany. And it undermines the argument that Jews are only safe in Israel.

    On at least one occasion, the Israeli government has lobbied Germany to restrict the immigration of Jews to Germany. Believe it or not!

    • Ellen on November 4, 2013, 4:10 pm

      Yes, Israel did lobby Germany to restrict immigration of Jews into the country. It was a successful effort. Not sure if the restrictions are still in place, however.

  9. Terri Ginsberg on November 3, 2013, 9:06 am

    Apparently this “right of return” of Jews to Germany is official government policy–does anyone have details about that? If true, the hypocrisy vis-a-vis the denial of Palestinian right of return is astounding.

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