Twenty five years after the major wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union to Israel, large socioeconomic gaps remain between the olim and veteran Israelis, as shown by newly released data from the Central Bureau of Statistics. The average gross monthly income for a veteran Israeli household is NIS 20,945, compared to NIS 14,074 for a Soviet immigrant household. About 80 percent of the income for olim households comes from work, and 15 percent from stipends and other support.
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The figures were presented on Wednesday at a conference held by the CBS to mark the 25th anniversary of the aliyah from the former Soviet Union. Two days ago, in the Knesset, there was a conference of the lobby for “empowering the 1.5 generation of Russian-speaking Israelis,” led by MK Yoel Razvozov of Yesh Atid.
The conference focused on the problems facing members of the “1.5 generation,” those who made aliyah as children and are now emigrating from the country at a higher rate than native Israelis; on pensions for olim who immigrated at an older age; access to higher education; cultural belonging; conversion; civil marriage and burial in Israel. There are over 754,000 olim from the former Soviet Union living in Israel and they accounted for 77 percent of all immigrants between 1990 and 2015.
CBS figures show that only 51.7 percent of olim own the homes they live in, compared to 73 percent of veteran Israelis. Among immigrants, there is also a higher rate of three generations living together. They rely on old-age stipends over twice as much as veteran Israeli households (7.2 percent, compared to 3.2 percent, respectively).
“We came here as children and we’re going through the same thing that our mothers and grandmothers continue to go through,” says social activist Lena Rozovsky. “In Israeli society, if you’re a ‘Russian,’ no matter how old you are or how long you’ve been here, you’re always a ‘Russian.’ We are labeled with stereotypes that have a direct effect on our lives. It’s not just somebody hurling an insulting word at you on the street. It’s the stigma that’s prevalent in society, and continues to be part of the way television characters are created and how we are represented in the press. It all affects the attitude toward us.”
The rate of sexual assault on girls and women of Russian extraction is 2.5 times higher than among native-Israeli Jewish girls and women (38 percent versus 16 percent), according to the latest figures from the annual Women’s Security Index study conducted by a coalition of six women’s organizations, which was presented at the conference.
“Due to the unique problems for the 1.5 generation, who made aliya at a young age – in the fields of economics, religion and state, and education – many olim are leaving Israel,” Razovzov said at the event. “In order to make it here, they have to fight harder than native-born Israelis their age. The world opened its doors to them, but they wanted to live in Israel. They served in the army, worked hard and got an education here. The 1.5 generation isn’t the problem. The problem is the way Israel is pushing them out.”
CBS figures show that many olim from the former Soviet Union have remained in their own sociocultural circle. Some 60 percent marry olim from the same countries. Half say their friends are from a similar background, while this is true for just 16 percent of the general Jewish population. About 45 percent of the olim say their command of Hebrew is only average at best.