Exodus to Israel
By Dikla Kadosh
“Yes, I’m leaving,” she said in Hebrew to her friend on the other end. “I’m giving up.”
On a chilly winter morning, the Israeli ex-pat who made Los Angeles her home for the past six years sat bundled in a thick jacket at a Starbucks in Valley Village. Several days earlier, she had packed up all her belongings, vacated her apartment in Tarzana and moved in temporarily with her eldest son. After six years in the States, Gavriel, 53, had just bought a one-way ticket back to Israel.
The current economic crisis wiped her out, she said, leaving her no other choice than to return home — a decision thousands of Israelis in Los Angeles are now facing. According to the Immigrant Absorption Ministry in Israel, the number of Israelis returning has spiked by 58 percent from the same time last year. The ministry estimates that more than 9,000 citizens returned in 2008, compared to approximately 5,000 in 2007.
“I thought to myself — with all my degrees and experience owning my own businesses, this is what I’ve been reduced to?” she said. “I didn’t come to America to clean buildings. The next day I called my son and told him I’m going back home.”
Within the past three or four months, the Israeli Consulate has seen a dramatic increase in calls from Israelis desperate to return home immediately.
“We’ve received a tsunami of calls,” said Israeli Consul General Yaakov Dayan, who reported that some callers are looking to expedite the required paperwork, while others are requesting economic assistance for their way back — the most desperate are pleading for help in buying plane tickets.
Ex-patriot Israelis almost always talk about moving back to Israel eventually. Moving to the United States is generally seen as a temporary means to a more financially secure life back home.
“You can have everything here, but nothing here,” the 30-something Israeli truck driver said. “There’s no family, no community, no meaning to life here. It may not be simple in Israel, but it’s home.”