In the October 23-24 Jewish Week edition of the year 2011, the editor asked a significant question to the readers, regarding the Jewish population in the United States. The editor wanted to know whether anybody cared about knowing the population of this minority group in the United States (Sheskin & Arnold 1). When one thinks of the Israelites, the other term most likely to occur is “Jew”. Mostly, people prefer to use the term “Jews” in place of Israelis. It is significant to realize that one is called a Jew due to his religion, and one is called an Israeli due to his/her nationality. Israelis are mostly termed as Jews because it is their main religion. However, there are Israelis who are non-Jews and Jews who are not Israelis. The Israelis immigrated to many parts of the world. However, apart from Israel, they are most prominent in North America and other parts of Europe. Apart from being the country that accommodates the people who recovered a language that they once forgot (Hebrew), it is of great religious significance to the Christians. The Christians believe that Jesus Christ, also referred to as the Messiah was born, raised, baptized, died and resurrected in Israel.
The History of the Israelis starts from 2000 B.C. This is in accordance to the activities evident in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament in the Bible (Bregman 5). Their history begins by God’s command to Abraham, to take a nomadic group to Canaan from Mesopotamia. Their destination is known to the Hebrews as the “Promised Land”. The Israelites refer to themselves as the “chosen people” in accordance to the agreement (covenant) between God and Abraham as long as the people were faithful to God. Abraham begot Isaac at old age and Isaac begot twins named Essau and Jacob. After Jacob tricked Essau into taking his inheritance, Jacob gained Essau’s blessings of the first child. Although it created some enmity for a while, they later reconciled. Jacob then got twelve sons through his two wives, named Rachel and Leah. These twelve sons are believed to have started the nation of Israel, with each son representing the twelve tribes of Israel. The word “Israel” came after Jacob’s name and was changed to Israel fighting with God (who appeared as an angel at night).
Through period of wars, oppression and peace, the land was finally captured by the Romans and the city of Jerusalem was renamed to Palestine. This was in approximately 132 A.D. by 326 AD, other religions started claiming Palestine. By 638 AD, Jerusalem was an Islamic holy city. By 1100 A.D, the Christians started a movement that would reclaim this land (Bregman 18). This brought conflicts between the Christians and the Muslims. By the 16th century, Palestine was included in the Ottoman Empire. Although the numbers of Jews in Palestine had increased for around three centuries, the Jews started flooding back to Palestine in the 1870s known as the First Aliyah. They were running away from the massacres that were dominating the European region during this period. In 1896, Theodore Herzl brought the idea of an all Jewish state in Palestine. It was known as the World Zionist Organization. Many Jews globally contributed to this program and some land in Palestine was bought. After fighting, they expanded their boundaries and regained Israel, thus becoming a fully fledged state in 1948 (Bregman 38).
Majority of the cultural practices are guided by the laws and the rules written in the Torah, the first five books evident in the Bible. However, they have other cultural activities that have evolved with time. Since, they highly value education, the Israelites had to immigrate to other countries even though their government in the newly formed country encouraged the Israelis in the Diaspora to migrate back to Israel. The discussion entails that the Israelis in the United States constitute a significant and influential share of the population continuing to impact the rest of the American population directly or indirectly.
As indicated, the population of Israelis/Jews in the United States is quite big. The Israelis act of immigration into the United States started almost immediately after the founding of the Israel State. This was in the mid twentieth century, as from 1948. However, other Jews had immigrated into the country during the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. As indicated earlier, they immigrated into this country and back to Palestine as a result of the massacres taking place in Europe. Before the year 1918, there were no documents, passports or visas needed for one to be admitted into boundaries of the United States (Messina & Gallya 35). One only needed to reach Ellis Island, where he/she was almost sure of admittance into the nation. However, even with this openness to the global community, the United States turned away approximately 2% of the immigrants who reached the island. The first prominent group of Israeli/Jews immigrants was recognized between the 1950s and the 1960s. During this period, the number of Israeli immigrants into the United States amounted to approximately 300,000 (Israelis in the United States 1). The second prominent wave of Israeli immigrants took off in the 1970s. This immigration has continued to date. Most of the Israelis ran to the U.S. in search of safety. They had just experienced the holocaust in the Second World War and so their main concern then was their safety. Since the United States was willing to accommodate refugees and other emigrants in the twentieth century, the people continued to find ways of reaching the United States border.
The first area of settlement was the metropolitan area of the city of New York. This is the leading region with the highest numbers of Israelis in the United States. The other area succeeding this region is Los Angles. New York City is home to the largest Jewish community globally apart from Israel/Jerusalem. Other areas with significant numbers of Jews include San Francisco, Boston and Miami. In Los Angeles region, the Jews/Israelis are most prominent in Encino, San Fernando Valley. They also reside in West Los Angeles (Gold 236). These areas are home to other people, originating from the Middle East region. Even though these are the regions with the highest population of the Israelis, other states accommodate small percentages of the Israelis population. While some Israelis moved from New York into other states, other Israelis came directly from Israel and the European region into the states they currently reside.
The highest population of this community is in New York. The main reason for this first settlement was the presence of Ellis Island. This area is in Upper New York and it was the destination place for the emigrants, waiting for admittance into the nation. Since they did not have enough resources to take them to other parts of the country, they decided to settle in New York, since it was the region surrounding the Island (Gold 237). As more and more immigrants moved into the country, they joined the already settled Israelis in this region, so that they could feel a sense of belonging. As the years passed on, the community continued to grow. The other rapidly developing area was Los Angeles. Many Israelis must have moved to this region in search of better means of earning a living. Since San Francisco is home to many immigrants from Mexico and other Hispanic and Latin speaking countries, it must have created a sense of belonging. Other people opted to settle in Encino in order to form their own grounds and identity while others decided to mingle with the other immigrants in the region in order to form a strong immigrants’ community.
Apart from the fear of a reoccurrence of the holocaust event also known as Shoah among the Jews, the war between the Israelites and the Palestinians also caused a lot of migration activity from Israel to the United States, especially in the second move of migration. Other than reasons relating to safety, the Israeli wanted to move into the United States for other reasons that are common with other emigrants. In this mid nineteenth century, Israel was still a new state. Its economy was unstable and many other aspects of the society were still not as developed, as the education standards. These inadequacies invoked a significant share of the Israelis to go to other more developed regions such as the United States in search of these amenities. In the 2009 census, the number of Israelis in the United States was approximated to be 139,177. However, this number represents the people known as Israeli Americans (Gold 330). Like other ethnic groups, the Israelis in the United States who are yet to be registered (illegal emigrants) may constitute a significant share of the population. The combination of the legal and the illegal immigrants in the United States is estimated to be approximately 500,000. By the year 2010, almost 15 million Jews applied for the 50,000 Green Cards offered by the government. Even though all these Jews were not all Israelis, a significant percentage of them were from Israel. Unfortunately, the government seems to turn away more immigrants than it actually admits.
Life in the United States
Many Israelis immigrate to the United States, aspiring to get access to the better opportunities as advertised to them by the Americans and the global community. This is the case with other immigrants in the United States. They come to the United States for a better education, job prospects and better lifestyles (Elazar & Weinfeld 55). These Israelis also come to the United States to escape the harsh issues of life emerging from religion, gender and sexual discrimination, interpersonal conflicts, broken families and the reoccurrence of international conflicts. As they migrate into the country, they bring their culture, beliefs and practices. When they reach the U.S., they either influence the Americans or are influenced by the Americans.
The Jewish religion is the main religion in Israel. As the Israelites spread into other parts of the world, including America and Europe, they moved with this religion. This is one of the reasons explaining the presence of many Jews in the United States who are non-Israelis. The Israeli culture is most influenced by the events and the teachings appearing in the Torah. Hebrew is the people’s language. As noted this language continues to become significant to many groups such as Christians as the religious book they follow, the Bible, was first written in this language. As the Israelis migrated, they moved with a significant part, if not all, of their traditions, cultures and practices. Apart from carrying their religion with them, they also carried their cuisine, modes of clothing and their festivities.
The strict Israeli Jews follow the 613 Holy obligations as indicated in the Bible (Bregman 85). The clothes they wear are the most prominent part of the Israeli culture in the United States. The Kippah is still worn by Jewish Israeli boys and men at all times. The Kippah is a small skull cap worn by the boys and men in the Jewish religion. The tallits/tallis is a prayer shawl worn during prayers. It has special features such as the knotted fringes at the corners. Unlike the women from the Arab/Muslim countries, the Israeli women’s clothing is more accommodating. However, they should wear their scarves at all times. Such modes of dressing are evident in New York and other American States. The Jews eat the gefilte fish when they want to break the fast known as Yorn Kippur. The cholent is a stew found in many Israeli homes on the day before the Sabbath since the Jews are not allowed to do any work (even cooking) on the Sabbath. Baby showers are quite popular in many Israeli homes and a baby’s name can only be known to others on the naming ceremony (Bregman 105).
There are many types of foods that cannot be eaten by the Jews, as outlined in the third book of Torah (Leviticus). The kosher or the acceptable foods to eat include dairy products, poultry, vegetables, fruits, fish with fins and scales, cloven hoofed animals and breads. The animals must be killed by shedding their blood but not strangling them. Strangled animals are termed as unclean. The cuisines are flavorful and savory (Bregman 1280). They are incorporated in many restaurants in the United States, while others prefer to erect restaurants dealing with Israeli foods exclusively. Though not fully, the Americans have incorporated the Israeli culture either directly or indirectly. For example, the Christians in the United States follow the same sort of foods as the Israelis. For example, Christians, as the Israeli Jews, do not eat reptiles, as they term them as unclean. Strict Christians do not eat strangles animals and pork just as the Israeli Jews.
Averagely, the Israelis who migrated into the United States did not have a hard time transcending into the American culture. They were more advantaged than the other immigrants. One of the main reasons leading to this smooth transition is the acquisition of education and the possession of specialized skills. These attributes enabled them to overcome the barriers, affecting other immigrants in the United States. At the beginning, many of the Israelis faced some form of discrimination, especially due to their religion, cultural and traditional practices. They also faced the lack of job opportunities, although it was not as intense as the challenges faced by the blacks or the Asians. The other migrating Israelis have found a smoother life in America. The Israelis form a closely knit community in the cities they prevail and so the migrating Israelis find a strong community to associate with in their earlier stages of settlement. Through these families and communities, they are able to find financial stability, thus finding ways of dwelling on their own.
As mentioned earlier, the challenge of financial instability and discrimination was there during the initial stages of migration although it was not as severe as the cases of the blacks and Asians. However, the Israelis overcame this challenge by creating their own closely knit communities (Haberfeld et al. 2). These communities were able to provide financial, physical and moral stability to the immigrants who came later, therefore bringing forth a strong and stable community of Israeli immigrants. The Israelis have changed some cultures, as they maintained others. As evident, the boys and men in these communities still wear the Kippah. On the women’s side, they still wear a head scarf and long dresses or skirts. However, they can also wear pants, but not shorts. The “Salute of Israel” parade and the Passover festival are common festivities among the Israelites in America.
Contributions to the U.S
The Israelis have played a significant role in influencing the Americans in one way or another. The spread of Israelis to other parts of the world, including the United States continue to influence the spread of the Jewish religion in America. It is evident that there are many Jews who are not Israelis. Although, majority of the five million Jewish people in the United States are immigrants from Europe and Israel, a significant number of them have been formed in the United States. This is due to the influence of the Israelis and other Jewish communities in the United States. As stated, the Israelis place great significance on families and relationships. This closeness continues to be a practice to emulate among the communities, surrounding the Israelis.
Israelis in the context of being Jews played a role in the formation of immigration policy in the United States. First, they affected the Americans to be more lenient towards the Jews, running away from the massacres taking place in Europe (Elazar & Weinfeld 85). Additionally, they shaped America to be a pluralistic society as opposed to being a unitary homogeneous society, since pluralism is not only of benefit to internal Jewish interests, but it is also of benefit to external ones. Apart from being of influence in the political arena, the Israelis have become of influence in other arenas evident in the society.
The Israelis have become of significant benefit in the field of research. This is more so in the scientific field. As noted, Israel is a country that produces some of the best fruits globally whereas it is a dry land. This innovation makes them to be sort after in many parts of the worlds including the United States. According to words spoken by Desmond Tutu, the Jews, especially from the Israel hold immense influence and power, unlike other religious and ethnic groups although they constitute two to three percent of the population (Elazar & Weinfeld 98). Numerous studies also call this community of the Jews people from Israel as the nation’s elite yet they are the minority. Through their influence, the Americans continue to support the military and political activities of the nation of Israel, despite the world’s protest against Israel. This mainly concerns the Israelis dominance of Palestinian land.
According to statistics released by various significant organizations, Jewish publishers and journalists are approximately twenty five percent. Public interests and voluntary organizations are led by Jewish leaders who constitute seventeen percent of the leadership. The Jewish civil servants holding top ranks add up to fifteen percent. The Jewish power and economic influence are prominent in the news, television and Hollywood industries (Messina & Gallya 56). This makes them very influential in all arenas of the American society. It is significant to note that the Jews in this scenario mainly go after the interests of the Israelis, since majority, if not of the Israelis are in the Jewish religion and practices. It is relevant to understand that though the Israelis are in small communities in diverse states of the nation, their influence can be felt in the whole nation. If their influence is felt in the nation, then it is felt globally, the U.S. being a superpower country.
As Desmond Tutu stated, the Israelis are a powerful nation whether they are in their country or elsewhere. They are quite influential as they continue to influence the decisions of the Americans, even as minority group. Although they had a fair share of their challenges at the initial stages of their immigration processes into the United States, they have had a smoother transition, as compared to other ethnic groups. The Americans accepted them more than they accepted other communities. Being a close community with principles founded on family and religion, the people of the United States should emulate them. This may be one of the reasons leading to the rapid spread of the Jewish religion in America today amongst other global countries. Their strength, courage and brilliance of reclaiming a country and language that was once erased and forgotten should set an example to the Americans and global community.
The Israelis have a troubled history, as they have lived a life of captivity, immigration and oppression. As they settled into the United States from Europe and their own country, they stated experiencing a sense of belonging and peace. However, their close knit communities are still a sign of showing that they still live in fear. Despite their experiences, they have not abandoned their cultures, practices, language and traditions as may have happened to other communities that were in the same form of oppression. For example, the people whose forefather came into America through slavery no longer carry out the traditions and practices of their countries of origin. Their challenges, history and contributions to the United States continue to influence the support of the American government toward the country of Israel.