Modern Aliyah

Economic, political, and religious trends shape the cultural makeup of the State of Israel.

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Whether aliyah is driven by idealism or pragmatic considerations, it seems clear that the opposite phenomenon--yeridah or emigration from Israel--is motivated primarily by economics and the dubious security situation. Between 1996 and 2002, the net gain to Israel's population as the result of migration (the number of olim minus the number of yordim, or emigrants) fluctuated between 12,000 and 50,000. In 2003 and 2004, the balance flipped--over two years, Israel experienced a negative balance of Jewish emigration, losing over 20,000 people to the Diaspora.

One of those forced to leave was Bracha Rutner, who departed Israel in 2003 after five years in Jerusalem. Her husband, a high-tech worker, was unable to find employment due to the economic slump. He had just been offered a good job in New York. "I'm very disillusioned," said Bracha. "There is a joke that says, the best way to cure a case of Zionism is to make aliyah. Unfortunately for me, this happened. Some of our friends are leaving. Every day you see a moving sale [advertised]. "It makes me really sad." (www.thejewishweek.com).

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Matt Plen

Matt Plen is the Chief Executive of Masorti Judaism in the UK. He has taught and trained educators in diverse institutions in Israel, the UK and the USA and is currently researching his doctorate on Critical Pedagogy and Jewish Ideologies of Social Justice.