What Israel Gained from Its Russian Citizens

If victory in the Six-Day War was a mixed blessing, the Russian aliyah was just a blessing.





An announcements wall at the Diplomat Hotel in Jerusalem, an absorption center that’s home to 600 immigrants from the former Soviet Union, on March 13, 2012. Miriam Alster/FLASH90.
Last Word
Nov. 30 2020
About the author

Matti Friedman is the author of a memoir about the Israeli war in Lebanon, Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier’s Story of a Forgotten War (2016). His latest book is Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel (2019).


It seems to me that the single event that brought the most good to Israel since its founding was the Russian wave of the 1990s. There are other competitors for that title, like victory in the Six-Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem in June 1967—but along with that military triumph came negative consequences that have damaged Israel’s internal cohesion and continue to pose moral dilemmas. If victory in the Six-Day War was a mixed blessing, the Russian aliyah was just a blessing. The million people who came here after the Soviet breakup have changed Israel for the better, and their absorption in the space of 30 years is a striking success for the immigrants and for the state.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Russian Jewry