When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Already a subscriber? Log in .

You've reached your limit of one free article.

Get unlimited access to Worldcrunch

You can cancel anytime .


Exclusive International news coverage

Ad-free experience NEW

Weekly digital Magazine NEW

9 daily & weekly Newsletters

Access to Worldcrunch archives

Free trial

30-days free access, then $2.90
per month.

Annual Access BEST VALUE

$19.90 per year, save $14.90 compared to monthly billing.save $14.90.

Subscribe to Worldcrunch

Exodus? Israel's Identity Crisis Over Brain Drain To U.S. And Germany

At Frankfurt airport
At Frankfurt airport
Peter Münch

TEL AVIV — The Nobel Prize ceremony is usually an occasion for celebration in Israel, as there is often at least one Israeli citizen among the honorees. This year, two Israelis were awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, but the country’s pride was bittersweet since both scientists live in the United States.

The rise in emigration among the most well-educated is a challenge faced by many countries, but in Israel the debate has taken on undertones of virtual desperation. The brain drain here is more severe than in other Western countries, and Israel has been seized by a fear that its people are starting to jump ship.

The debate about emigration is turning into a national identity crisis. Israel depends on Jewish immigration for its survival. The highly sought-after immigrants are called olim, meaning “those who ascend,” while emigrants are yordim, or “those who descend.”

Emigration clearly has an image problem, but according to a survey by Israeli Channel 10 this does not diminish its appeal for ordinary citizens. Of those surveyed, 51% admitted having thought about leaving their homeland.

The exodus of scientists is often linked to the state’s decision to cut funding for education to bolster the military and to finance construction of new settlements. According to a new study, for every three scientists who stay in Israel, one moves to the United States. But scientists are not the only group leaving their home behind. Young people and those in creative industries are also leaving in droves — and many are heading to Germany.

To Berlin and back

Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who lived in the U.S. for a few years himself, recently spoke out against those “who are prepared to throw away the only homeland the Jews possess simply because life is more comfortable in Berlin.” There was more than a whiff of accusation in the air when he spoke of the estimated 17,000 Israelis who currently live in the German capital.

It’s not just the parties and cultural life that draw them to Germany. The lower cost of living is also an important factor. According to the newspaper Haaretz, Berliners need to save 67 months’ salary to buy an apartment, while in Tel Aviv the figure is 170.

But the debate goes far beyond the bare figures. The German ambassador to Israel, Andreas Michaelis, was quick to point out that most Berlin-based Israelis do not stay in the city on a permanent basis. Instead they return to their homeland “inspired,” which he characterized as a sign of a good partnership. Of the 15,000 citizens who leave Israel each year, 10,000 return. At eight million, Israel’s population is 10 times what it was when the state was founded 65 years ago. But the country is still plagued by a fear that the Zionist dream will falter.

When the father of modern Zionism Theodor Herzl developed his plan for a “homeland for all Jews” during the era of nation states, he could not have predicted how globalization would affect his dream. Now the country he helped to create in the ancient land must face a very modern crisis of identity.

You've reached your limit of free articles.

To read the full story, start your free trial today.

Get unlimited access. Cancel anytime.

Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.

Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries.


Life On "Mars": With The Teams Simulating Space Missions Under A Dome

A niche research community plays out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another planet.

Photo of a person in a space suit walking toward the ​Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

At the Mars Desert Research Station near Hanksville, Utah

Sarah Scoles

In November 2022, Tara Sweeney’s plane landed on Thwaites Glacier, a 74,000-square-mile mass of frozen water in West Antarctica. She arrived with an international research team to study the glacier’s geology and ice fabric, and how its ice melt might contribute to sea level rise. But while near Earth’s southernmost point, Sweeney kept thinking about the moon.

“It felt every bit of what I think it will feel like being a space explorer,” said Sweeney, a former Air Force officer who’s now working on a doctorate in lunar geology at the University of Texas at El Paso. “You have all of these resources, and you get to be the one to go out and do the exploring and do the science. And that was really spectacular.”

That similarity is why space scientists study the physiology and psychology of people living in Antarctic and other remote outposts: For around 25 years, people have played out what existence might be like on, or en route to, another world. Polar explorers are, in a way, analogous to astronauts who land on alien planets. And while Sweeney wasn’t technically on an “analog astronaut” mission — her primary objective being the geological exploration of Earth — her days played out much the same as a space explorer’s might.

Keep reading...Show less

The latest