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Bielefeld Graduate School

in History and Sociology

Logo der Einrichtung
Logo der Einrichtung

Galit Schir

We bring them Israel there

This study, of the relationship between the state of Israel and Israeli expatriates abroad, focuses on government policy targeting Israelis abroad. Such a focus allows a unique examination on the way diaspora is seen, discussed, and constructed in the home country and how this imagery is transformed abroad.

Using archival written documents, political committees? protocols, coverage of emigration in the Israeli media, as well as interviews and observations conducted both in Israel and abroad, I first explore the attitude change in the Israeli political discourse towards emigration and relationship to emigrants, and how normative approaches are translated into policy.

Noting the change in the rhetoric and terminology I argue that Israel's reaching out policy towards Israelis abroad reflects a re-definition of the boundaries of the national community outside, and also inside Israel. While the traditional Zionist narrative is still present (emigration as descent - Yerida) preferring life in Israel to that in the diaspora, a new narrative is also developing, one that accepts Israeli emigration and tries to institutionalize and direct the relationship of this community with the homeland.

Second, I examine the implementation of the state's diaspora engagement policy, analyzing the goals and activities of two government projects ? the "Israeli House" of the Israeli Ministry for Migration Absorption, and "Connecting" of the Israeli Ministry for Diaspora Affairs.

Contemplating and discussing not only the stated but also the latent functions of Israel's engagement abroad, I highlight the ways the home state shapes the diaspora and reaffirms its role in cross border nation building.

Studying the triangular relationship created abroad between state institutions, Jewish non-state agencies, and Israeli grass roots organizations abroad it seems that while being often beneficial for the state to reach its goals, this relationship may also be a source of tension within the inter-organizational cooperation around issues of national importance.

Potential for tension and conflict arise concerning the Jewish and Israeli character of the Israeli diaspora, the type of state-diaspora relations, the definition of Zionism, the meaning of a Jewish homeland for the diaspora, and the place of non-Jewish citizens within the national community.

The way Israel deals with these tension, will greatly determine the future of the Israeli diaspora and the relationship between the Jewish and the Israeli diaspora abroad.


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