The city of Kiryat Arba in Judea, along with the Jewish community of Hevron, held a massive party this week in honor of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The event marked 20 years since the beginning of a major wave of Aliyah from the FSU as communism collapsed and the Soviet Union fell apart.
The party also celebrated veterans of the Second World War.
“The large wave of Aliyah from the Soviet Union gave much to the state of Israel, and to Kiryat Arba and Hevron, in terms of culture, art, science and technology,” said Malachi Levinger, head of the Kiryat Arba local council. “We are proud to salute the olim [immigrants] with this exhibition... and we wish everyone a good and successful new year,” he told the crowd.
A representative of World War II veterans also spoke.
The party began in the afternoon at a local pool, where revelers rode on kayaks and inner tubes and children took part in games and competitions. Later in the day the party moved to the community center, where offerings for children included inflatable structures to play on, a ropes course, paintball, a petting zoo featuring snakes, and games. Musicians, drummers, and martial artists performed for the crowds.
A klezmer band and the Kinderlach band both took to the stage later in the evening.
Almost 200,000 Jews made Aliyah from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1990. A total of more than one million FSU immigrants have made their home in Israel since.
In 2010, Aliyah from the FSU is increasing again, with 905 Russian Jews making aliyah in the first four months of 2010, a 25% increase over the same period in 2009. Experts believe the recession in Russia may make Israel more appealing to young Russian Jews.
A study released in February of 2010 found that Russian Jews who immigrated to Israel had a longer life expectancy than those who remained in Russia, living an additional seven to eight years on average. They also had more children on average, with Russian Jews in Israel having an average of more than 2 children per family, compared to one for Jews living in Russia.