Back from the U.S.S.R.: Soviet Jewish Immigrants in a Fractured Promised Land



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Between 1989-2001, 1.5 million Soviet Jews emigrated to Israel, representing the largest immigrant wave in the country’s history. Since their arrival, the Former Soviet Union (FSU) immigrant community has formed a salient Soviet-Russian identity through their Russian language, Soviet-Russian cultural traditions, and geographic concentration in Ashdod, Ashkelon, and Haifa. Most significantly, the FSU community has impacted Israel’s political landscape through their overwhelming support for right-wing politicians, such as the secular-immigrant party Yisrael Beiteinu, and their hardline stance on peace negotiations with Israel’s Arab counterparts. Existing studies confirm the xenophobic views held by the FSU community toward Arab citizens. Through 78 survey responses and 20 in-person interviews, this study assesses the willingness of the FSU community to adapt their views of the Arab population through an in-depth analysis of how their negative outlook of the Arab population formed; and to what extent those views were shaped by the FSU community’s integration into Israel. My analysis finds that the main factors that formed the FSU community’s negative views of Arabs are the following: an unfamiliarity of Arab culture and the Arabic language, a lack of interest in learning more about the Arab community, a fear of violence and support for security measures, and the belief that “good” interactions with Arabs are an exception to an established rule. Combined, these four factors indicate that the willingness of the FSU community to adapt their views of Arabs is low. In examining the four factors that contribute to these negative views held by the FSU community toward Arabs, this study provides a unique insight into the limitations of effective integration within Israel’s multicultural society; and how the failure to integrate these two communities stands as one significant impediment to an effective peace process.



Israel, Soviet Union, Immigration, Jewish Diaspora, Soviet Jewish Immigration, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict