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Monday, June 4, 2012

How Israel Has Grown Since 1948

Nadene Goldfoot
Moses, born in 1526 BCE,  left Egypt at the age of 80 (1446 BCE) with 600,000 slaves to start anew in Canaan.  Those Israelites had seen the genocide of their newborn male babies by the Egyptians who were trying to stem their growth, and Moses was saved from this as a newborn by being hidden away in some reeds. That makes it 3,458 years ago that we had been freed from slavery and had set out on a very special journey of 40 years to get to our homeland.

In May 1948 when Israel was re-born through the UN the population was 650,000.  By May 1972 it had grown to 3,164,000.  1,400,000 were immigrants or as they say in Hebrew, olim.  Israel had 4 waves of immigration.
1.  Between May 1948  to the end of 1961, 754,800 olim entered Israel including
       a. refugees from the Holocaust in Europe, remnants of the Jewish communities in Poland, Bulgaria and Czechoslovakia.
       b. Entire Jewish communities from Arab countries including 121,000 out of 130,000 of the Jews in Iraq; 44,000 out of 45,000 of the Jews of Yemen, 30,500 out of 35,000 of the Jews of Libya.

2. Between 1955 and 1957, 165,000 Jews came from Morocco, Tunisia, Poland and other countries.
    A large number of Jews from Romania arrived in Israel under a family reunification scheme.

3. Between 1961 and 1964, 215,056 Jews came, mainly from Eastern Europe and North Africa.

4. Since the Six-Day War in 1967 there has been a new wave of immigration from countries in North and South America, Western Europe and the Soviet Union.  By the end of 1972, about 200,000 immigrants had arrived.  My husband and I arrived in 1980 from Oregon. We were teachers who were set to teach English.

Jews had been living in ancient Jewish communities in Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Libya for over 2,000 years and they immigrated to Israel, virtually ending the existence of those communities.  In several Eastern European countries, immigration removed what was left of the Jewish communities after the Holocaust.  Poland, Hungary and Romania where they had been a minority only have a handful remaining if any now.  This makes Israel the largest Jewish population next to the USA.  Nearly 700,000 immigrants, almost half the total-came as destitute refugees from Moslem countries.  This number matches that of the Palestinian Arabs who became refugees in 1948.  

When the Jewish immigrants arrived in Israel the first thing they needed was housing and employment.  Israel was still an infant State dealing with heavy immigration in its first 3 years.  Most were housed in tents to start with called ma'barot-or tent camps.  They had to start by living on welfare grants or subsistence wages for work on public welfare projects.  Today they are taken directly to new homes or to absorption centers where they study Hebrew, which is what happened to me.  I was in such a place called an Ulpan in Haifa, studying to earn my credentials to teach in Israel,having been an experienced teacher in Oregon.

The problem Israel faced in those years was a cultural integration of half of the immigrants coming from Moslem countries in North Africa and Asia where most had lived in poverty and of a traditional and authoritarian Muslim society where they were 3rd class citizens or dhiminnis.  Another teacher in my school was from Iran where he had seen half of the male members of his family hung for being Jewish.   The other half came from Europe and America where their background had been of a modern democratic and technological society.  Today East is marrying West and things have worked out. In fact, by 1970, 18.5% of marriages were of couples of mixed cultural origins.    The results are that we have beautiful and intelligent people to be proud of.  Israel did it all by themselves with the help of grants and loans from the USA but never had to involved UNRWA.  They paid back the loans and integrated the people into the society.

Resource:  Facts About Israel, Division of Information, Ministry for foreign affairs, Jerusalem
The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia

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