What was life like in Israel in the 1990s

Country Profiles Migration: Data - History - Politics

Jan Schneider

To person

Dr. Jan Schneider heads the research department at the Expert Council of German Foundations for Integration and Migration (SVR). He is a Research Fellow at the Hamburg Institute of International Economics (HWWI) and a member of the editorial team of the "Migration and Population" newsletter.

With the emergence of the Zionist movement, Jews immigrated to Palestine from the early 1880s. For the period up to the founding of the state in 1948, a general distinction is made between five waves of immigration (Alija, plural: Alijot).

Before the founding of the state

The first aliyah between 1882 and 1903 comprised around 25,000 mainly Russian and Romanian Jews and was not least a reaction to a number of anti-Semitic pogroms in southern Russia. It led to the first larger towns and farms in an area that until then had been relatively sparsely populated and economically underdeveloped. Another 40,000 Jews came to Palestine between 1904 and 1914. This group consisted mainly of members of the "Zionist workers" in Russia who were dissatisfied with the course of the social reform movements and who were also victims of anti-Semitic attacks as a result of the upheavals of 1905. Another 35,000 or so immigrants, mostly from Poland and Russia or the Soviet Union, formed the third aliyah between 1919 and 1923. was motivated by the Balfour Declaration and the associated upswing for the Zionist project of a Jewish state of its own. [1] Between 1924 and 1931 another 80,000 Jews came, again primarily from the Soviet Union and Poland. Polish Jews in particular suffered from anti-Semitism in Polish government policy, which excluded them from important segments of the economy. In contrast, the opportunities for economic development for Jews in Palestine had already improved significantly by this time, and a Jewish infrastructure had developed.

The largest pre-state immigration wave, the fifth aliyah between 1932 and 1939, comprised around 200,000 Jews. They recognized the signs of the times - mostly after the Nazis came to power in 1933 - and decided to leave their homeland. The immigrants of the 1930s also included several thousand Jews from oriental countries with large Jewish communities such as Yemen and Iraq. Between 1939 and 1945, around 70,000 European Jews from Poland, Germany, Romania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia managed to escape from the Nazi terror. Sometimes they are also included in the fifth aliyah. These immigrants not only had to cope with the difficulty of leaving Central and Eastern Europe, but were also confronted with restrictive immigration regulations by the British mandate against the backdrop of the looming partition of Palestine. On the eve of the founding of the State of Israel, the Jewish population of Palestine was over 600,000.

Escape and displacement during the War of Independence

At the beginning of Jewish immigration at the end of the 19th century, Palestine was by no means uninhabited. A partly nomadic, partly sedentary Arab population lived on site - initially mainly in peaceful coexistence with the Jewish immigrants - a total of around 400,000 people. [2] There were also a number of small Jewish communities, which together comprised around 20,000 people and whose settlement mainly went back to the Jews expelled from Spain at the end of the 15th century and Jewish pilgrims of the late Middle Ages.

Especially in the mixed populated cities of Haifa, Jaffo, Ramle and Akko, the living and economic areas of both population groups overlapped at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to Jews, Arabs from surrounding regions also migrated to Palestine and settled there. As early as the early 1920s, however, there were riots and sometimes armed conflicts between Jews and Arabs (mostly over land issues), but also between the two groups and the British mandate in Palestine. In the 1930s and 1940s, and increasingly after the partition plan of the United Nations (UN) from 1947, which provided for two states on Palestinian soil, there were civil war-like clashes. Immediately after the Jewish National Council declared independence on May 14, 1948, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iraq declared war on the new State of Israel. This first Israeli-Arab war lasted over a year and led to massive displacement and refugee movements, as victorious Israel also conquered areas that, according to the UN plan, should belong to the Arab state of Palestine.

A total of between 600,000 and 800,000 people of Arab origin became homeless: more than 450,000 settled in the Gaza Strip and in the part of the West Bank controlled by Jordan until 1967, 70,000 in Transjordan (today's Kingdom of Jordan), 75,000 in Syria and a further 100,000 in Lebanon. Palestinian refugees also found refuge in Iraq (around 4,000) and Egypt (around 7,000). [3] Unlike most Jews, who saw the Zionist dream achieved and defended in Israel's independence, war, flight and displacement in 1948 meant a catastrophe (Nakba) for the Arab Palestinians. In 1948 a smaller part of the Arabs stayed in the newly founded state: a good 150,000 non-Jews received Israeli citizenship and thus became an ethnic minority. Their relatives are referred to as Israeli Arabs or Palestinian Israelis, depending on the (self) definition. This group now comprises more than 1.4 million people.