Sunday, April 2, 2006

What's a "new immigrant?"

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 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."
New immigrants: 14
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, 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.

To give my time 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 socio-economic 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 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 in Israeli society, and she was obviously very successful and well absorbed or assimilated, as they say in other countries.

I wonder how many of the MK's in the incoming Knesset are immigrants in general and what criteria make some new, while others veteran. Add to that where they were educated, since Bibi 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 how someone who wants to be in the Israeli Knesset, Legislature, wants to market his or herself as a newcomer. To be an effective legislator, one must know the "in's and out's" 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 of 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 MK's. I consider most of their policies dangerous, and they are either among the least effective of the "experienced" MK's 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" I guess they'll fit in with the rest of the crooks, ehrr, politicians.


Anonymous said...

I agree with you as usual, but you left out Chaim Herzog.

KennewickMusing said...

I sure wish "new immigrants" in the USA was like new immigrants in Israel!

New immigrants here, (a growing proportion but not all) seem to think they can live here illegally, use our resources, they can magically get on medicare...all kinds of things.

The most disturbing is non-allegiance to the country.

Batya said...

S. A. reminded me that I had left out American raised and accented Mischa (Moshe) Arens of the Likud.

Anyone else? Don't be shy.