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FEATURES ‘Berlin Alyiah’: fact or myth?

berlinBy Simone Somekh*

In the past few weeks, several newspapers around the world reported an inquiry originally published in the Israeli business magazine “The Marker” (a supplement of “Haaretz”). The inquiry claimed that many Israelis are emigrating, and that one of the favorite destinations is Germany’s capital Berlin. The reasons of this supposedly massive emigration to Berlin are both ideological and economic.

The ‘Berlin Alyiah’ phenomenon – as it was named – revolved around the “Olim LeBerlin” Facebook page (20,000 likes), administrated by Israeli Naor Narkis. Pictures posted on the page compared food prices in Israeli and a German supermarkets, claiming that life in Israel is more expensive than in Germany, and that the tenor of life in Israel is severely affected by the threat of terror attacks.

Despite the 50,000 Israelis rumored to have emigrated to Berlin, Italian-born demographer and statistician Sergio Della Pergola, 72, published an analysis of the ‘Berlin Alyiah’ phenomenon in the November issue of Pagine Ebraiche, claiming that – according to the data – this phenomenon has been overrated.

The alleged exodus to the birthplace of the Nazi Party and the coverage of the ‘Berlin Alyiah’ by many renowned newspapers caused a media storm, as a consistent part of the Israeli society claimed to be outraged. On the other hand, some Israelis who already emigrated from Israel have been trying to convince their friends to do the same, since Israel’s cost of living in Israel is known to be remarkably higher than Germany’s; moreover, the many secular and non-Zionist Israelis are not willing to live in a country that is often threatened by rocket attacks and other forms of terrorism.

Della Pergola, who is a professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem, reported a series of data that clearly show that the ‘Berlin Alyiah’ is not as major as the massive media coverage claimed it to be. The professor wrote that, “according to Berlin’s Municipality the were 3,065 Israelis residing in the German capital in 2012.”

Although the high cost of living in Israel is an undeniable fact (Israelis often hold demonstrations and protests for the unreasonably high cost of everyday needs such as morning cereal, toothpaste, et al.), Della Pergola also explained that, due to the high immigration rate, Israel’s emigration rate is almost insignificant. In fact, between 1983 and 2013, the Israeli population has doubled from 4 to 8 million residents.
“While many Israelis dream of moving to Europe and some of them actually do it, there are many more Jews who are concerned about the transformation of the European societies,” wrote Della Pergola.

Last week, campaign starter Naor Narkis initially said to be available for an interview with Pagine Ebraiche, but on Thursday he published a statement on his Facebook page, declaring that he is going to shut the page down and return to Israel.
“Over the past 30 days, this page represented the voice of a lot of Israelis,” wrote Narkis, explaining that the “Olim LeBerlin” page represented a form of protest against the Israeli government, rather than an actual campaign for the ‘Berlin Alyiah.’ “I have full confidence that we Israelis have the energies and intensities so that people can have it much better in Israel,” concluded Narkis.

*Simone Somekh is a student at Bar-Ilan University (Israel) and writes as a freelancer both in Italy and Israel.