GERMANY - Why Young German Jews Move to Israel

Arno Froese

People who were born and raised in Israel are not used to hearing that their upbringing is something to be envious of. The country is engaged in a bloody conflict with the Palestinians, military service is compulsory and it has one of the highest inequality rates in the West. Israelis also work some of the longest hours among states within the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

These statistics do not make Israel an obvious immigration destination, particularly when coming from Germany—another OECD member that tops Israel in a number of key areas, including average wages and PISA performance. But for some German Jews, the dry figures are irrelevant. They decided to move to Israel anyway—and they have no regrets.

“Can you really leave your house as a Jew in Germany without being treated like a museum exhibit? Not really,” says Alon Kogan, a 22-year-old who was born in Offenbach and moved to Israel in 2015. “I always felt like I was a tourist attraction almost,” he recalls. “Here, I no longer feel like an outsider.”

Maya Rosenfeld, 22, also moved to Israel three years ago. “I was tired of explaining myself all the time. Tired of explaining Judaism to the world,” she remembers. “People would ask me why Jews circumcise their children or demanded that I interpret Israel’s policies. Why is it my job? Educate yourself on your own.”

In another instance, a fellow pupil brought a newspaper to class and asked her what she was doing to the people of Gaza. “For him, I was somehow responsible for this because I’m Jewish,” Rosenfeld says.

But having to explain who she was didn’t stop after high school: “You would think people in their 30s are more educated about Jews than schoolchildren. But even during my apprenticeship weird questions just kept coming.”

Rosenfeld claims to have several Jewish friends back in Germany who hide their identity to avoid conflict. But for her, it was not an option. So, in 2016, she decided to move. “I could no longer feel like a stranger in my own land,” she says.

Government figures showed a 10 percent rise in anti-Semitic crimes in Germany in 2018—there were 1,646 offenses registered nationwide last year, up from 1,504 in 2017. There was also an increase in violent crimes motivated by hatred against Jews: 62 offenses in 2018, compared to 37 the year before.

For 28-year-old Lina, though, it wasn’t anti-Semitism as much as a general feeling of foreignness that triggered her move to Israel five years ago. Arriving in Munich from Latvia with her family when she was seven, Lina says she always felt somewhat like a guest, despite speaking fluent German and attending both school and university in the country.

“I always had a different background from others. That’s why my closest friends were also always of immigrant background,” she explains.

After becoming involved with the local Jewish community, Lina started seriously considering moving to Israel. “The Israelis I met seemed to have much more normal lives. Their stories sounded like something I wanted to experience,” she recalls. “I started thinking what my life would look like had I grown up in Israel. In Germany, I always looked for a sense of belonging.”

Going to the synagogue or celebrating Jewish holidays is no longer considered weird or exotic, Rosenfeld says. But while she is happy she moved, her new life in Israel in not concern-free. “Now I face ignorance from the other side,” she says. “Some people told me that they would never visit Germany because of the Holocaust, as if we are all Nazis.”

“Many times I’ve asked myself what was I doing, leaving my comfortable life in Germany behind—especially on my first day in the military,” Kogan laughs. “But whenever I visited Israel it felt like home to me. So I followed my heart, and it was the right choice.”

-www.dw.com/en, 4 March 2019

Arno's commentary

It seems significant that Jews are singled out. What is the reason? There are many. The most obvious is that the bulk of Jews in Germany either escaped or perished in the Holocaust. Thus, for the grandchildren of those who committed the atrocities, only few have knowledge of or are familiar with a Jewish person. On the other hand, Germany has admitted—with open arms—millions of refugees, mostly Muslim. Strangely enough, there discrimination is not so obvious. Thus, the nation has had much experience with Muslims in their midst. Today, one can see Muslims in virtually all levels of society.

Yet, we must emphasize the Jew is different; he will remain different, because it is the God of Israel, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has segregated this group of people from all the nations of the world. Moses makes this statement: “For thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God, and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth” (Deuteronomy 14:2).

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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