What's a "New Immigrant"?

From my perspective - here in Israel almost 36 years - I always felt that one couldn't do well in politics if one wasn't "well-absorbed" into the country.

Batya Medad,

OpEds לבן ריק
לבן ריק
Arutz 7
Israel has a high percentage of immigrants. In Hebrew we're called olim, those who ascend, go up to the land of Israel. Traditionally, living in the land of Israel is supposed to put us on a higher spiritual level. Within the land, there's an additional elevation, that's aliyah l'Yerushalayim, ascending to Jerusalem. The opposite is yerida to Tel Aviv, descending to Tel Aviv, for instance, or even more extreme, yerida m'ha'Aretz, descending from or leaving the land.

The newer immigrants are olim chadashim. "New" or chadash (in the singular masculine) is a very relative, subjective word.

In the official listings of the newly elected Knesset members, it states that there are 14 "new immigrants": Kadima - 3; Likud - 1; Shas - 2; Yisrael Beiteinu - 8.

I always thought that one was only a "new immigrant" during the three to five years, or so, that one benefited from "immigrant rights", the financial help and educational accommodations offered to newly arrived immigrants. Once that period is over, we're "just immigrants," like so many others.

From my perspective - here in Israel almost 36 years - I always felt that one couldn't do well in politics if one wasn't "well-absorbed" into the country. Eastern-European accented Hebrew has always been accepted without any problems, North-African Arabic accents a bit less so (more for socioeconomic reasons), and with only two notable exceptions, English-accented Hebrew has always been considered the greatest barrier. The two exceptions were Abba Eban and Golda Meir.

Prior to the previous elections, I remember a female Russian immigrant and Shimon Peres protege, who spoke very fluent, though accented Hebrew, insisting that she deserved support, since she was a "new immigrant". She didn't qualify in my books as a new immigrant, since "new" to me means not yet fully absorbed into Israeli society. She was obviously very successful and well absorbed, or assimilated, as they say in other countries.

I wonder how many of the MKs in the incoming Knesset are immigrants in general and what criteria make some "new" and others "veteran". Add to that where they were educated, since Binyamin Netanyahu may not be the only one whose university career was abroad.

Even though I'm a very veteran immigrant and speak fluently, people who don't know me still think that they're better off using English when they hear my accent. (Part of this is because I try to use correct grammar, which causes occasional hesitation.) I consider this an insult and am not shy about saying so.

I can't see why someone who wants to be in the Israeli Knesset, our legislature, would want to market himself or herself as a newcomer. To be an effective legislator, one must know the ins and outs of the system well. I would trust a very veteran immigrant or native-born Israeli who has shown strong sensitivity to the needs of others a lot more than I would trust a newcomer, regardless from where.

One of the worst things in this new Knesset is that the two most effective legislators were not re-elected, since their party had them too low on the list. And in a sense, it's also one of the good things about this crop of MKs. I consider most of their policies dangerous, and they are either among the least effective of the "experienced" MKs or they're totally new to the system. G-d willing, that will prevent some of the damage.

Politics is a fickle and tricky game. It's not for "new immigrants". But maybe those "new" immigrants are a lot more veteran than they want the electorate to know; and if their campaign was a "con", then I guess they'll fit in with the rest of the crooks... ehrr, politicians.



top