Israelis flock to Germany

By Toby Axelrod, September 22, 2011

Israelis are moving to Germany in unprecedented numbers - and finding a receptive atmosphere.

Over the past ten years, thousands of Israelis have settled in the German capital. The German-Israel Society estimates there are 8,000, but the figure could be as high as 15,000.

The idea that Jews are settling down in the land that was responsible for the Shoah seems ironic. But Germany is a strong supporter of Israel and there have been decades of close ties between the people of both countries.

Berlin of the 21st century, with its cheap rents and international flair, is also a magnet for young people in general.

Another reason why some Israelis are coming here is that Jews whose parents or grandparents were persecuted by the Nazis are eligible for a German passport, and are enticed by the potential benefits of being an EU citizen.

Israeli sociologist Sima Zalcberg found that about 100,000 Israelis hold a German passport, and about 7,000 people per year apply for citizenship at the German embassy in Tel Aviv.

That so many Israelis choose Germany over other European countries may have something to do with the number of German Jews who fled to Palestine in the 1930s. They were instrumental in building the young Jewish state, and sometimes nurtured a German cultural identity, keeping the language alive while cutting themselves off emotionally.

Today, the German capital boasts an internet newsletter for Israelis, regular social gatherings where Hebrew is the main language, a weekly radio program called "Kol Berlin" and Israeli restaurants. Israelis are buying apartments and investing in property in Berlin as well.

According to the Jewish community of Berlin, however, few Israelis are actually joining the community. They tend to be more secular and politically further to the left.

Reinhold Robbe, president of the German-Israel Society, said both Berlin and Tel Aviv are hip, alternative and multi-cultural, and "Israelis get very comfortable here". But Israelis also come here "to get away from the stress of living in Israel," added Mr Robbe.

Last updated: 1:57pm, September 22 2011