The final line—“Israel can no longer be understood without its Russian component, and Israel’s ‘Russians’ can only be understood as a type of Israeli”—of Matti Friedman’s fascinating essay about Israel’s Russian immigrants and their children captures how much they changed Israel, and how much they didn’t. An impressive storyteller, Friedman examines “popular culture as a window into the broader spirit of what’s happened.” But there’s an important ideological tale to tell too, one that he touches on lightly but that deserves full exploration. As Israeli society experienced one Russian revolution after another in the 1990s, one of the nation’s core, founding myths was transformed—even, it’s not too strong to say, rejected.
The End of the New Jew
Unlike earlier waves of immigrants, the million East Europeans who made their way to the Jewish state in the 1990s managed to escape the cultural strip-mining that awaited them.