Leaving Zion: Jewish Emigration from Palestine and Israel after World War II

About this Episode

Guests
Ori Yehudai

The story of Israel's foundation has often been told from the perspective of Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel. In this presentation, Ori Yehudai turns this historical narrative on its head, focusing on Jewish out-migration from Palestine and Israel between 1945 and the late 1950s. Based on previously unexamined primary sources collected from twenty-two archives in six countries, he will talk about how, despite the dominant view that displaced Jews should settle in the Jewish homeland, many Jews instead saw the country as a site of displacement or a way-station to more desirable lands. Covering events in the Middle East, Europe and the Americas, Yehudai provides a fresh transnational perspective on the critical period surrounding the birth of Israel and the post-Holocaust reconstruction of the Jewish world.

Ori Yehudai is the Schottenstein Chair in Israel Studies and Assistant Professor in the Department of History at the Ohio State University,

This podcast is brought to you by the Clio Society of the Ohio State History Department, in partnership with the Bexley Public Library, and Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective.

Cite this Site

Nicholas Breyfogle , "Leaving Zion: Jewish Emigration from Palestine and Israel after World War II" , Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective
August, 2021
https://origins.osu.edu/listen/history-talk/leaving-zion-jewish-emigration-palestine-and-israel-after-world-war-ii?language_content_entity=en.
August, 2021

Transcript

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
Welcome to Leaving Zion: Jewish Emigration from Palestine and Israel after World War II, brought to you by the History Department, the Clio Society and the College of Arts and Sciences at The Ohio State University and by the Bexley Public Library. My name is Nick Breyfogle. I'm an associate professor of history and director of the Goldberg Center for Excellence in Teaching, and will be your host and moderator today. Thank you so very much for joining us. The story of Israel's foundation has often been told from the perspective of Jewish immigration to the land of Israel. In this talk today, Dr. Ori Yehudai, turns this historical narrative on its head, focusing on Jewish out-migration from Palestine and Israel between 1945 and the late 1950s. Based on sources collected from 22 archives in six countries, he will talk about how, despite the dominant view that displaced Jews should settle in the Jewish homeland, many Jews instead saw the country as a site of displacement, or a waystation to more desirable lands. Covering events in the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas, Dr. Yehudai provides a fresh, transnational perspective on the critical period surrounding the birth of Israel and the post-Holocaust reconstruction of the Jewish world. Let's take a moment to get to know our speaker Ori Yehudai is the Saul and Sonia Schottenstein Chair in Israel Studies and assistant professor in the Department of History at Ohio State. His research focuses on modern Jewish history with special emphasis on Zionism and the State of Israel, migration and displacement, relations between Jews and non-Jews after the Holocaust, and more recently, aspects of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and ethnic tensions within Israel. At Ohio State, he teaches courses on the history of modern Israel, the Arab-Israeli conflict and Jewish migration. With that introduction, let me lay out the plan. Professor Yehudai will begin with this talk, and then we'll take your questions and we will open things up for discussion. Many of you submitted questions when you registered. However, if you're interested in asking questions during our webinar today, please write your question in the q&a function at the bottom of your screen on Zoom, and we'll do our best to answer as many questions as we can. Now, without further ado, let me pass you over to Professor Yehudai, who will take us on an exploration of Leaving Zion: Jewish Emigration from Palestine and Israel after World War II. Over to you, Professor Yehudai.

Dr. Ori Yehudai  
Thank you, Nick for the introduction. Thank you to the Clio Society, to the College of Arts and Sciences, and to the Bexley library. And thank you, everyone, for joining us today. The material that I'll be presenting to you comes from a book that I recently published about Jewish out-migration from Palestine and Israel between 1945 and the late 1950s, as Nick explained in his introduction. A lot has been written on Jewish immigration into the country during those years, but my book looks at the movement in the opposite direction. The book combines different levels of narrative. It tells the story from the perspectives of the migrants themselves, showing why they left Israel, what obstacles they faced when they tried to emigrate, and what happened to them after arriving to their new destinations. And the book also looks at the public and institutional aspect of the story, investigating the migration policies of Israel and of receiving countries, and the discourse and reactions to immigration, both in Israel and in the larger Jewish world, and in receiving countries, countries of destination. The broader question that the book tries to answer is, what was the role of Zionism in the State of Israel in the post-war world, especially in the lives of Jews who were displaced by the events of the period. And I draw on the theoretical assumption that looking at the conditions surrounding the departure of emigrants helps to understand the political, ideological, and social conflicts involved in the nation-building process, because emigration, out-migration, much like immigration defines the boundaries of the state. And this means that those who choose to cross the boundaries may put themselves in conflict with the national project. And because of national anxieties, national fears of loss, the departure of those emigrants may be treated as deviant or even traitorous, because that puts them in conflict with the national project. So these are some general observations about emigration, how they're highly relevant to Jewish emigration from Palestine and Israel, because Jews who left the country acted against the expectations of the national community, which defined the Land of Israel as the only home for all Jews, and rejected Jewish life in the diaspora as pointless and untenable. Since the Zionist movement emerged in Europe, but saw Palestine, or the Land of Israel as its homeland, the entire realization of the Zionist project was based on Jewish immigration into the ancestral homeland. Even beyond the practical goal of moving people from one place to another, Jewish immigration to the Land of Israel was deeply ingrained in nationalist ideals. Immigration was regarded as a process of individual transformation that required Jews to leave behind what was perceived as the negative features of their old diaspora identity. ...In the Zionist view, those features included weakness in the face of anti-Jewish hostility, and passivity, and uprootedness, and ...Jewish immigrants to Israel were expected to leave behind those features, and recreate themselves as new Jews. And ... those new Jews were seen in Zionist discourse as strong, proud people deeply rooted in their ancient ancient homeland. As we can see in those in those slides, those images that represent the idea of the new Jew, here we can see the contrast between the old Jew in this painting was chained to the diaspora and longing to the Land of Israel. And on the other side, the image of the strong and proud, new Jew. So those images help to represent the transformation that was involved, or that was expected from immigrants, Jewish immigrants, going into Israel. Due to the practical and ideological significance of immigration for Zionism, emigration, the movement out of the country, was understood as a threat to the success of the Zionist project, and it was described in terms such as catastrophe, social disease, collective psychosis, and even suicide, as we will see later. Emigration was also attributed to an ideological and personal weakness, and lack of moral and physical stamina. According to the traditional Zionist narrative, those who left the country did so because they could not withstand the rigors of pioneering life in Israel, or because they were too selfish to dedicate themselves to the national collective national goal, or project. Emigrants were seen as a problematic group of deviators, and even traitors, who represented the countertype of the ideal national type, which the Zionist movement tried to create. And see the contrast between the ideal type and the countertype, again, in those images. The presence of emigrants as countertypes helped to forge and reinforce the new national identity. So even though emigrants left the country, they still had an important social role. And this discourse was also reflected in the terms that were used in the discussion on immigration. As you can see here in this slide, "aliyah" is the Hebrew term that was used to describe Jewish immigration to Palestine, aliyah meaning "ascent" in Hebrew. "Yeridah" meaning "descent" in Hebrew was the term given to Jewish emigration from Israel. And accordingly, immigrants were called "olim", those who go up, and emigrants were "yordim", those who go down. So we can see how those terms convey a certain ideological message. How significant was this migration movement? Between 1945 and 1967, almost 190,000 Jews left Palestine and Israel. This was about 14% of the number of Jewish immigrants who came into the country during the same years. My main focus is on the critical years of the massive Jewish immigration to Israel, the period between 1948 and 1953, when the Jewish population of the country was more than doubled by the arrival of 700,000 new Jewish immigrants, mainly from Europe and the Muslim world. Now to understand the magnitude of this immigration in the early years of Israeli independence, we can try to imagine then the US would today receive about 600 million new immigrants in a period of three years or so. We also have to remember that most of these immigrants were poor people, and that the state itself was young and lacked the resources needed to absorb all those new immigrants. Here we can see in this photo, one of the immigrants camps, one of the camps, transit camps in which immigrants in Israel were living during those years. There are many other similar camps throughout the country. So it is not surprising that the majority of emigrants, of those who left the country, were new immigrants who had come to Israel after 1948 in this mass immigration. About 75% of the emigrants had come to Israel from Europe, so there was a clear majority of European or Ashkenazi Jews among the emigrants, and the main destination of emigrants was the United States. As we can see here, 31% of all emigrants went to the US, 42% went to all European countries, and much smaller numbers emigrated to countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Emigration to Europe, and to the Middle East, and North Africa was mainly return migration of people who would come to Israel from those regions, while emigration to the United States, and to the Americas more generally, was for the most part, not return migration, but resettlement in a new destination. Among all those immigrants, there was one group of a few thousand people that attracted considerable amount of attention during the 1950s, and that also caused painful embarrassment for Israel. This group occupies a large space in the book, and I will also focus on this group in this talk. The group was comprised of people who immigrated to Israel, from Eastern European countries, and from displaced persons (or DP) camps in Europe. The DP camps were facilities that were created and managed by the Allies, and by UN agencies to provide shelter to people who have been displaced by the war, by the Second World War, including, of course, Jewish survivors of the Nazi genocide who lived in those camps before they were able to settle in new destinations. Here you can see a map of those camps that were established mainly in Italy, Austria, and most of them actually in Germany. This is a picture showing Jewish DPs in a camp in Germany, calling for open immigration to Israel. And here we can see Jewish DPs, refugees from the Holocaust trying to reach the shores of Palestine after the Second World War. Although those emigrants had gone to Israel, from the DP camps and from other places in Europe, they did not see their future in the Jewish state. And after various time periods ranging from few months to several years, they decided to re-migrate. Most of them wanted to go to the United States or to Canada, but due to various technical reasons, they could not get there directly from Israel, and they had to use Europe as a stepping stone to their desired destinations. Many of them, however, would not realize their emigration plans even after arriving in Europe, and they ran into serious economic and legal troubles in their countries, countries of transit, especially in Germany, and also in Austria, France, and Italy. Those stranded migrants refused to return to Israel and became dependent on assistance from local Jewish communities and from Jewish and non-Jewish aid organizations. For many of those stranded migrants, the only solution was return to refugee life, which they tried to achieve by settling in DP camps in Germany and Austria, mostly in Germany. Most of those DP camps had been closed by 1951, following emigration of DPs, mainly to Israel and to the United States, but also in other countries. But there was one camp, the Foehrenwald Camp near Munich that existed until 1957 because it housed the so-called "hardcore" DPs, that's the sick and disabled survivors who could not, or did not want to emigrate from the camp and start new lives elsewhere. So 12 years, this camp was closed only in 1957, 12 years after the end of the Second World War, and it still housed Jewish refugees, Jewish Holocaust survivors, until 1957 in Germany. And this camp also became a magnet for migrants from Israel. The migrants gravitated towards the camp in the hope of receiving welfare and emigration assistance from Jewish organizations and local authorities that were providing this kind of help to the hippies that were already living in the camp. Both inside and outside the camps, including, of course, in Foehrenwald, the main body to which emigrants from Israel turned for help was the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, also known as the JDC, or the Joint. The Joint was established in 1914 by American Jews to extend help to Jews around the world. Over the years, the Joint developed into the world's largest Jewish philanthropic organization. And it was also the most important Jewish body operating in Europe after the Second World War. Many of the migrants had been supported by the Joint before going to Israel. So when they returned to Europe from Israel, they expected the Joint to again become their main source of support. But the Joint could not fulfill the expectations. The Joint had invested considerable funds and efforts in diminishing the Jewish refugee problem in post-war Europe by sending refugees to new destinations, especially to Israel. And since Israel was considered as the main destination for the resettlement of Jewish refugees after the war, it was the official policy of the Joint not to assist those leaving the country. The migrants did not accept this position. They protested by staging strikes, sit-in strikes, and sometimes hunger strikes, at the offices of the Joint in Europe, and by sending letters to the press and to Jewish organizations. In those letters, they complain that the Joint was discriminating against them because they had left Israel. One emigrant, who had fought in the 1948, Arab-Jewish war in Palestine, and was now part of a group that got stranded in Rome on the way from Israel to Canada, wrote the following letter to one American Jewish organization: "Strangely enough, I am now treated like an outcast by the people I fought for. Why? Because I left Israel? I cannot stand the climate down there. Apart from that, is the policy of the Joint to force people to go back to Israel right? Not every American lives in America, not every Frenchman in France, not every Englishman in England. I fought in Israel for two years under the worst conditions, those people [of the Joint] have never seen the country and talk. They ought to go down there themselves for at least two days before they condemn others." And this is just one example of the attempts of migrants to draw attention to their plight. The migrants became a headache, not only for Jewish organizations, but also for local authorities, especially in Germany. The Germans were determined to close the DP camps and terminate, put an end to the Jewish refugee crisis in Germany. But the influx from Israel into the camps ran counter to those efforts. German officials negotiated with representatives of Jewish bodies in order to find various solutions to the crisis, especially through resettlement in other destinations. But the Germans also took police action against the migrants, including imprisonment and deportation from the country. And this included deportation to Israel, which , an action which represented one of the historical ironies of this story, the irony involved in the fact that the forced expulsion of Jewish Holocaust survivors from Germany to Israel several years after 1945. Now it's important to note that there were no formal diplomatic relations between Germany in Israel between West Germany in Israel at the time, there had been  contacts between the countries regarding the agreement on reparations for the Holocaust, but the negotiations on deportation from Germany of those migrants was a much less known diplomatic channel between Israel and West Germany. All these events took place in Europe, but they brought reactions from the American Jewish community, the community that funded the relief activity in Europe. Public opinion among American Jews was divided. Some supported the migrants and accused the Joint of rejecting appeals for help on account of political considerations. The "Jewish Newsletter", which was an anti-Zionist journal based in New York, argued that we migrants from Israel were looked upon with contempt and hatred by the Zionist and pro-Zionist relief organizations, which denied them assistance in order to force them to go back to Israel. On the other hand, there were those who believed that the Jewish world owed nothing to emigrants from Israel. Some letters to the editor of the "Jewish Daily Forward", which was a very important newspaper, also based in New York, argued that Jews who had suffered under the Nazis, and had been sent to Israel with the help of money given by American Jews, should endure the hardships of life in Israel and not return to the land of their persecutors. And those returning, it was claimed, should not expect to receive any public support. A writer in one American Zionist journal accused the migrants in Germany of reversing the process, and transforming the historic return to the Land of Israel into the degradation of the returnee or the re-migrant to Germany. This writer insisted that the Jewish people had no obligation towards the re-migrants who were the creators of their own misery. The pressure by the migrants and their supporters in the Jewish press, but also the tendency of relief officers to assist people in need, often compelled the Joint to deviate from a declared policy and assist migrants from Israel. But the Joint could not adopt a firm policy, because it constantly had to choose between two bad options. On the one hand, refusing assistance to migrants would aggravate their hardships and magnify the problem. On the other hand, it was clear that providing assistance would encourage more movement from Israel of people who would be driven by the hope of relying on this assistance once they arrived to Europe. The Joint finally came to the conclusion that the only way out of this dilemma was to influence the Israeli government to curb the movement out of the country. In November 1953, one of the directors of the Joint traveled to Israel to meet with key Israelli decision makers and convey to them the severity of the problem. As a result of those meetings, it became clear to authorities in Israel, that emigration from the country was creating serious complications in Europe, and became a political embarrassment for Israel. The Israelis decided to take several steps to confront the disorganized departure from the country. The government restricted this distribution of passports and exit permits, exit permits were still required at the time for anyone wanted to leave Israel, so they imposed those restrictions on travel papers in a way that would limit emigration, but would also minimize the chances that emigrants would get stuck on their way or would face legal and economic troubles after leaving Israel, as happened in the past. The Israeli government also decided that new immigrants wishing to leave the country would not be allowed to do so unless they refund the state for the value of material benefits that they had received upon immigration to Israel. In some cases, prospective emigrants were even required to repay the costs involved in bringing them to Israel and maintaining them in immigration camps in Israel. And this was a serious obstacle for emigration because many people who wanted to leave the country were unable to pay all those costs, so they had to stay in Israel. And, the government also launched a propaganda campaign in the newspapers against emigration. The campaign was based mainly on reports about the hardships of Israeli immigrants, the hardships that Israeli immigrants had encountered abroad. As part of this campaign, journalists traveled to different countries of  destination to collect material on the experiences of disappointed emigrants. The stories were later published in the newspapers, with the aim of damping the enthusiasm for emigration among Israeli citizens. In the words of one Israeli official, the purpose of the reports was to demonstrate to the Israeli public that "no mountains of gold were waiting for them abroad." Most of the reports indeed painted a very gloomy picture of emigrants' lives, and highlighted their immoralities and personal and financial failures. The campaign included not only articles, but also cartoons. This one, for example, shows the Holocaust survivor, Jewish Holicaust survivor, knocking on the closed doors of post-war Germany. You can see his bent shoulders and green face. This cartoon depicts the emigrants as rootless people, floating above the globe, carried in the air by the passports. Their suitcases contain "black market", "slander of the country", and "forgeries", which were common accusations against emigrants. To me this cartoon evokes Marc Chagal's "luftmensch". Luftmensch, the Yiddish term meaning "man of air", which refers to the impractical, overly intellectual person who came to symbolize the ruthlessness of the Jews of the diaspora. The very opposite of the image of the root of Jew that stood at the center of the Zionist vision. So we can see the similarity between those two images. So this was part of the propaganda campaign against emigration. And these anti-emigration policies were important in and of themselves, and they helped to mitigate the crisis in Germany. But the discussions leading up to the decisions were also important because they revealed the views of Israeli officials about several issues surrounding the emigration problem. Issues like individual freedom versus collective needs, the mental disposition of Jewish migrants, and the relations between migrants and the Jewish state. For example, an official named Giora Yoseftal, who was in charge of the immigration activities, immigration enterprise in Israel, thought that immigrants were driven to leave the country by a wandering instinct ... and lack of mental stability. He believed that new immigrants in Israel should be compelled to endure the hardships, or else many of them would leave. One of the meetings of the immigration committees, or committees on emigration, Yoseftal said, and another official who reacted to emigration was Golda Meyerson, later became known as Golda Meir. She was then Minister of labor, and she said that, she compared restrictions on emigration, which I described earlier, as laws against suicide. Compared emigrants as people intent on committing suicide, and compared the ... restrictions on emigration to laws against suicide. In her view, Israel was entitled to demand self-sacrifice from Jewish immigrants, and the restrictions on emigration did not violate any concepts of democracy, liberalism, or individual freedom. So those were some examples of the reactions of officials to emigration and to the restrictions on emigration. Many observers, both in Israel and in the larger Jewish world, also made comments about the psychological and moral character of the emigrants. One American Zionist newspaper speculated, writer in Americans Jewish newspaper, speculated about what she called the "morbid compulsions" of Jewish migrants who had left Israel and settled in refugee camps in Germany. This writer wondered, whether the impulse to return to the scene of the crime animated the victim as well as the criminal, or whether the migrants were attracted by what she called the "womb-like security" of the refugee camps. One Israeli newspaper wrote that by leaving Israel and becoming "false refugees" in Germany, the re-migrants had committed an immoral act, and placed themselves beyond the limits of national and Jewish solidarity. One notable exception to all those statements was an account by an Israeli journalist visited one of the German camps in which migrants from Israel were living, and concluded that most of them were "sound-minded family people, thoughtful and hard-working, serious and cautious." He got the impression that those people had decided to put the wandering stick in their hands again, only after long and many deliberations and after encountering unusual difficulties, insurmountable for most people. But most accounts were much more negative. As these examples indicate, Jewish emigration from Israel became a controversial public issue both in Israel and in the wider Jewish world. The vision of Jewish statehood had not considered the possibility that Israel would become a sending country of needy migrants. The presence of such migrants in Europe, and especially in Germany, provoked intense reactions regarding the phenomenon as a whole, and regarding the moral conduct of the migrants and the bodies with which they came in contact. The migrants challenged two central convictions of the Jewish world after the war. First, that Israel should be a country of Jewish immigration and not emigration. And second, that Jews should not settle in Germany, resettle in Germany. Jewish emigration from Israel, therefore, aroused debates regarding the appropriate attitude towards people who had acted against society's expectations. And since many emigrants demanded material support during the migration process, their presence in Europe, especially in Germany, posed a conflict between two principles. On the one hand, the traditional idea of Jewish international solidarity, which is embodied in the term "כל ישראל ערבים זה בזה", or "all Jews are responsible for one another". And on the other hand, support of Zionism, which became a consensus view in the Jewish world, in light of what had happened in Hitler's Europe. So it seemed that there was a conflict between assisting emigrants and the notion that assisting emigrants would encourage more movement, which in turn would undermine the Zionist cause, it seemed to contradict the notion that Jews should express and maintain international solidarity. So this is the conflict between those two principles. But the positions of those participating in the debates were often detached from the personal and material considerations that motivated the emigrants themselves. Emigrants were mostly driven by issues like climate conditions, health problems, economic distress, the difficulty of learning Hebrew, that desire to reunite with family members abroad, and general feelings of alienation in Israel. Usually to some combination of all those motives, as we can see, we can learn from the statement of one emigrant who said, "I can't stand that country, the climate, the people, everything." But, in any case, ... when we look at all those motivations and considerations of Jewish migrants, we see that migration is usually an individual act, emigration decisions are individual acts, but the historical circumstances of Jewish emigration from the Land of Israel after the Second World War, indicated that the personal experiences of individual migrants were cast into the public domain, in which the migrants were seen as social outcasts by many people. In both the academic literature, and popular imagination, the creation of Israel is regarded as a rupture with the Jewish past of displacement and wandering. But the experiences of emigrants invites us to rethink this assumption. The Zionist movement aspired to create a sense of Jewish rootedness and permanence in the soil of the Land of Israel, and to solve the problem of Jewish homelessness, which was seen as the defining feature of Jewish life in the diaspora. But the story of Jewish emigration from Israel emphasizes continuity rather than change. It tells us that tens of thousands of Jews saw the Lad of Israel not as a permanent homeland or a final destination, but as a way-station to other countries. As opposed to received opinion, Israel was not only a country of Jewish immigration, but also of emigration. The image of the wandering Jew maintained a strong presence in the year surrounding the creation of Israel and the specter of displacement hovered over the early years of the state. Thank you. I will end here and my apologies again for this technical problem in the middle of the talk, so thank you for your patience and for bearing with me.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
Thanks so much Ori for that really fascinating, and somewhat surprising discussion. We've had lots of questions come in and I'll remind you if you have other, if anybody who is watching, listening would like to submit a question, please do so using the the q&a function which just at the bottom of your Zoom. We've had a few questions that sort of look at the experience of the émigrés and the reception of the émigrés into the countries that they moved to. And we put them to, I guess, there was sort of, several questions about how well-received and, I think, particularly people were interested in hearing about just moving from Israel to the United States. But how well were they received? And when they when they arrived did any ever return back to Israel? Was there a, sort of, re-immigration? And we had a question about, has any kind of a survey ever been done of those who emigrated from Israel? In the sense that do they feel remorse of any sort? Do they feel like they made the right decision in leaving Israel?

Dr. Ori Yehudai  
Okay, so thank you for those interesting questions. So I'll start with the question about emigration to the United States. Well, my talk focused mainly on Europe. And I discussed reactions from the American Jewish Committee, but in the book, I have a special chapter dedicated to emigration to the United States, and also to Canada and Brazil. So the general, one of the main themes emerging from the stories of those who went to the United States is actually improvement in the life conditions, in the economic status of emigrants, which were able to improve their economic status as a result of emigration to the United States, compared to their life in Palestine, or later in Israel. They also received some assistance from the American Jewish community. Emigration to the United States was not free of those conflicts. There were Jewish American organizations that assisted migrants, Jewish migrants, but they refused to assist Jewish emigration from Israel. So there were conflicts that I described in relation to Europe, also existed in the United States. And still, migrants were not completely isolated from the American Jewish community. They received help from communities, from various organizations. They participated, they became part of the communities, some of them became Hebrew teachers, for example. ...But on the other hand, we have those stories of people who regretted leaving Israel. People who will, maybe despite, in fan of the improvements in their economic status, they still miss Israel, they felt that in Israel, they had a more meaningful life as Jews, despite the security problems, despite the conflict with the Palestinians, despite the wars against Arab countries. So I've seen memoirs and autobiographies of people who describe those feelings of actually saying that emigration to the United States was a mistake, because they still felt a strong connection to Israel. There was a variety experiences, we're talking about, you know, tens of thousands of people, so people had different experiences, and different reactions. There was a question of return. This is an interesting question that only, you know, just this morning, I heard from a friend whose family immigrated to Israel in 1949, left for the United States after two years, then returned to 1960, and then emigrated again in 1967 to the United States. And there are many stories like that. Many people change their minds, kept looking for other options, kept, you know, assessing their opportunities. And we can see that emigration is not one, you know, one-directional movements. Usually, many times it involves also moving in the opposite direction, of people changing their minds and went back. But what's even more interesting, I think, is that it was also an organized return to Israel. One of the reactions of the Israeli government to the crisis of emigration was to allow, to give people an opportunity to return to Israel with public funding, with funding of the state. This was called, the program was proposed in 1954, it was called an amnesty program, people were actually required to, those who applied to return, were required to sign a statement that they regret leaving Israel and that they are willing to abide by certain conditions of the Government of Israel not to ... present any other demands of the Israeli government, to settle in several places that the government decided they should settle in. So there was also an organized return to Israel. I'm not sure if there was another question which I did not answer.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
No, I think you hit on all of those that were there. We had a question, which is kind of from personal experience, which was that "my late father-in-law", not my late father-in-law, but the person who submitted the question, "my late father-in-law, immigrated to Israel in 1946 from Poland, while his son, my late husband came to the United States. My husband was only 16 at the time, and how common was it for families to split like that in the migration process?"

Dr. Ori Yehudai  
Yeah, it was quite common. There were cases of people who were early to escape from Nazi Europe in the 1930s/1940s, and, you know, reach Palestine, and their other family members, family relatives had survived the war, and stayed in Europe or went to other places, and then people started looking for relatives. And sometimes they wanted to reunite with, you know, with their family relatives, and sometimes family reunification was achieved through immigration to Israel, but sometimes through emigration from Israel. So this is actually one of the main reasons for emigration from Israel, the desire to reunite with family. And yeah, so it was quite common. I've seen cases of people explaining that this is why they want to leave Palestine in 1945/1946/1947, but also Israel in the 1950s, in order to reunite with family relatives.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
There's been some questions about the, well, about more recent, sort of, history. This says that this process of emigration out of Israel, and the kinds of, sort of, crisis of this nationalist resignist project that it causes, and this disruption or anxiety that it causes, has that continued on after the 1950s? In the sense, your research really goes through the 1950s, but is there, what were their similar moments in more recent decades where we see this kind of emigration and the anxieties to the whole Zionist project?

Dr. Ori Yehudai  
Yeah, actually, I discussed this question in the conclusion of the book. And my argument is that there is a combination of continuity and change here. On the one hand, there is more openness, there were more acceptance towards the, you know, the idea that Jews would leave Israel, and that Israelis would settle in other places. The term that I presented at the beginning of the talk, yordim, which, kind of a derogatory term describing emigrants is much less popular today. Today, there's more, people are using more neutral words like, you know, bergamo immigrants, without passing this moral judgment. This is part of a change in Israeli society, the crumbling of Zionist ideology, the rise of more individualistic approaches. ...Part of this is the notion that people could, you know, choose where they want to live, not necessarily in Israel. So this is one process. But on the other hand, you still see from time to time in the media, in the press, that the emigration debate comes to life again, as a result of a particular event, or particular case of an emigrant. And then you, sometimes you can see those same sentiments, same arguments that were very prevalent in the 1950s, then they still exist, they still, people still express them even today. The notion that emigration is, kind of, a treason, or expression of disloyalty for the state. The notion that people should make an effort to stay in Israel despite all the hardships that still continue, even though they're incomparable to the hardships of the 1950s, but still there is this notion that Zionism requires people to contribute to the collective effort and part of that is living in Israel. And also this negative approach towards, the attitude towards emigrants. Especially those who go today to live in Germany and Berlin. So I would say there is this combination of continuity and change in the discourse on emigration today.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle 
There's a question from from John Pugh, I would think, is the pronunciation. But, here writes, "possibly a strange question, but can you speak to the accuracy of the historical novel, "Exodus", by Leon Uris? I believe it's important, as I think it's hugely influenced my parents generation, and in some part my own, in their view of the creation of the nation of Israel. This would help me understand the stridency of Israelis in their reaction to the early emigration from Israel.

Dr. Ori Yehudai  
I think this, movie was part of, you know, what we call Hezbollah Jewish...maybe what, you know, the exact, the best word in English for that is propaganda, or public relations for Israel. The film ... described the struggle for the creation of Israel, during the 1940s and 1950s, especially the struggle to bring Jews into Israel. So it had an immense impact, very strong influence, on American Jews and, you know, in helping to raise support for Israel. So I mean, even if the details are accurate, I don't remember exactly the, you know, the details there. But we should see this as part of, you know, of the public relations efforts in Israel. For those who are interested in this question, and looking more more closely at this question I can recommend a book by my colleague, Shaul Mitelpunkt, wrote a book about, it's called "Israel in the American Mind", it's about the cultural aspect of Israeli-American relations, and he devotes a special chapter to this movie, to "Exodus". So it's my, if anyone wants to know more about this then I encourage them to read this book.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
That's a great suggestion. And we'll be sending out a follow-up email after the event today, and we can include that information in that email, and, sort of, some follow-up reading. We have a couple of questions about the, kind of, personality types or commonalities amongst the people who were willing to emigrate. We have one person who said that you say that many people migrated multiple times to and from Israel. In contrast, many others came to Israel and remained or did not emigrate at all. To your knowledge, are there in fact any personality types or ideological characteristics associated with a preference for immigrating? Are there certain types of people independent of social experience who are more likely to immigrate or emigrate than others? And so, yeah, are there any, sort of, I know, there's the, you were talking about how they've, these kinds of ideas were perpetrated in the press, and this sort of thing, but do we actually see any types of shared personality traits or historical kinds of commonalities?

Dr. Ori Yehudai  
Yeah, it's interesting. I mean, it's, again, it's difficult to generalize, because we're talking about I said, 190,000 people, so, you know, each one of them have, you know, their own reasons, motivations, background, personal background. But I think what's interesting here is the contrast between the perception of emigrants at the time, and the actual experiences of emigrants. As I said at the beginning, the perception was the emigrants were weak people, people who had not had enough, you know, ideological, enough physical, or mental power or mental strength to endure the hardships of life in Israel. And emigration was seen as an expression of weakness. This was a, you know, part of the Zionist narrative about emigration. But when we look at what those people had to go through, those people who emigrated, especially those who, you know, who got stuck in Europe and had to go, you know, to go through all those hardships, but also people who went to, you know, to other countries and had a more normal emigration experience. So when you look at the, at what the people had to go through during the migration process, I think, well, I mean, I think we have to rethink this notion that those emigrants were weak people. I think it refutes this notion of emigration as an expression of weakness. Sometimes, it required a lot of strength, a lot of, I think, optimism, maybe even courage, you know, to change their reality. And we also have to bear in mind the historical autobiographies of those people, many of them, actually most of them, were refugees, or Holocaust survivors, and they kept the struggle to find a  home, even after settling in Israel. So it's hard to say, I mean, it's hard to characterize those people. But at least we can, I think, challenge the notion that emigration was an expression of weakness. The question of ideology, it's also interesting, because what I found is that most people emigrated not because of ideological opposition to Zionism, but because of more prosaic, more mundane reasons, like, you know, economic, material reasons. We talked about family considerations, but also, you know, housing problems in Israel, employment, so more material, personal reasons, than, those reasons were more important than ideological reasons. Some people emigrated because of ideology, and declared their opposition to Zionism, and mentioned their rejection of Zionism as one of the reasons for emigration, but it was less common than those more jury of personal reasons.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
Just in that vein, we had a question, which begins "many thanks for the deep contexts about movement to and from Israel on the competing perspectives of all parties. With your mention of questions about settlement policies, to what extent did emigrants choose to depart Israel, from objections to Israeli policies towards Palestinians?

Dr. Ori Yehudai  
Yeah, again, it was not very common. I've seen some people, some testimonials or statements of people who mentioned the Arab-Israeli conflict, sometimes even in retrospect. This is actually interesting. So, some people who emigrated, for, you know, whatever reason, when they reflected back on their emigration to Israel, when they wrote their memoirs or gave an interview, maybe 50 years after emigration, then some people referred to the conflict against the Palestinians. Which became, I think, one of the, you know, one of the things that you would expect people to say why they would not want to live in Israel. But the contemporary sources, again, ...there's more emphasis on those personal reasons, more than the conflict or other political reasons.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle  
There's time for maybe a couple more questions. One was, "what was the thinking in the mindset of Jews going back to Germany, Germany specifically, and so soon after World War II? What was the German, kind of, public reaction to Jews coming back to Germany at that time?"

Dr. Ori Yehudai  
So the thinking of the people themselves, I think we have, there is a combination here of practical considerations, and also attachment to German, your German culture, to their German identity. We have to we have to bear in mind, we have to remember that many of those people went to Palestine, not because they were Zionists, but they went there as refugees. They wanted to escape Europe, and this was one of the options of escaping Europe, so they settled in Palestine. And when the war ended, and some options were open to leave the country, they wanted to go back to their homes, to their countries, even though it was Germany. And some people still felt connections to their previous life to Germany, to their identity as German, or also in other European countries. So it's all part of the desire to leave Palestine or Israel to go back to the home country. There were also practical considerations. So, people knew that by going to Germany, they would improve their chances of emigrating to the United States, because of the relief activity, because activity of immigration organizations, and relief organizations that operated in Europe and helped people move from Europe to Canada or to the United States, so this was a practical decision. Going to Germany in the hope of receiving help from those organizations that would assist people ... settling, you know, overseas in the United States. Then the approaches towards those migrants, it's interesting to look at the reactions of the American Jewish community. The revived American Jew, sorry, German Jewish community, you were talking about emigration to Germany. The reaction of the German Jewish community towards emigration from Palestine or Israel, which was negative. They were quite isolated, the Germans. The German Jewish community was quite isolated from the rest of the Jewish world. They were accused of choosing to live in what was called the "blood-soaked land" of Germany, the cursed land of Germany instead of moving to other places. And they thought that by accepting emigrants from Israel, the criticism against them would be even more intense. They thought that emigration actually may weaken their position in the Jewish world. And they also felt that it did not have the financial resources to assist those migrants. And this phenomenon was repeated also in other places. There was opposition to emigration from Israel, not only in Israel, but also in Jewish communities in various countries in the world, because there was a strong support for Zionism in the Jewish world after the war, and people felt that helping immigrants coming from Israel was in conflict with support for Israel. So there were a lot of debates about what to do with those immigrants. Should we help them because, they are Jews, and we ... have this solidarity with other Jews who need help? But on the other hand, if we help those immigrants, we might encourage more emigration from Israel, and this would be in conflict with our desire to help Israel thrive.

Dr. Nicholas Breyfogle
Wonderful, thank you so much, Ori. Unfortunately, I think that may be all we have time for today. I wanted to say a very deep and heartfelt thank you to everyone for joining us here today. And again, apologies for the brief technical difficulties. I'm very grateful to Professor Ori Yehudai for sharing his expertise and passion for history today. Please join me in giving him a virtual round of applause. We'd also like to thank the College of Arts and Sciences, especially Clara Davison and Jade Lac, and also the History Department, the Harvey Goldberg Center for Excellence in Teaching, the Clio Society, the Bexley Public Library, and the magazine Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective for their sponsorship. And once again, thank you for your excellent questions, and for your ongoing connection to Ohio State. Stay safe and healthy. We'll see you next time. Thanks very much. Bye bye. 

Dr. Ori Yehudai  
Thank you.

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