Israelis head into diaspora in search of roots

By Nathan Jeffay, June 30, 2011

As Diaspora Jews flock to Israel to explore their Jewish identity this summer, thousands of Israelis will embark on a culture trail of their own - in the diaspora.

A new poll has found that 69 per cent of Jewish Israelis consider it important to visit Jewish sites when on holiday or travelling for business. While past studies have observed an upturn in Israelis going on dedicated "heritage trips", this is the first poll on the pull of Jewish sites during regular travel.

The poll, which was conducted by Keevoon Research, also showed the extent of familial connections in the diaspora - 65 per cent of respondents said they had relatives abroad.

Some 71 per cent of respondents felt that representatives of the Israeli government "should always be ready to meet and maintain contact with diaspora Jewish organisations that criticise their policies". The statement was a reference to the left-wing Jewish American group J Street, which tends to receive the cold shoulder from the Israeli government and its US embassy, and to other left-wing Jewish groups such as the European JCall.

Alan Schneider, director of the B'nai B'rith World Centre which commissioned the poll, said that the response on the J-Street question "shows that the government is out of step with the majority of Israelis on this particular issue."

Last updated: 12:37pm, June 30 2011