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immigrants’ children than tothe immigrants themselves.
Itis selective,multidimensional,and unintentional. It is compatible with retention of the immigrants’ language and cultureas a second language and as a subculture. The old conception of assimilation wasabandoned by the social sciences and by Westernsocieties. Assimilation in the twenty-ﬁrstcentury is reconcilable with “thin multiculturalism” or with what Kymlicka calls “liberalmulticulturalism.”
My analysis of the two mass immigrations to Israel stresses several points. First,Jewish immigrants to Israel are an assimilable group and, like immigrants to otherimmigrant societies, they assimilate culturally and socially in one way or another.Multiculturalism in the sense of group separation applies only minimally to Jewishimmigrants in Israel, but it holds true for Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews, PalestinianArab citizens, and foreign workers.
Second, despite a certain degree of assimilation, theMizrahi mass immigration of the 1950s evolved as a new permanent ethnicgroup due to itsconcentration in the lower classes. And third, the Russian mass immigration of the 1990swill eventually assimilate into the Ashkenazi veteran group rather than form a separateethnic group. There are favorable conditions for the long-run assimilation of the Russianimmigrants despite the creation of an ethnic enclave in the 1990s. These differencessubstantiate my overall thesis that the Mizrahi wave of immigration was a failure while theRussian wave of the 1990s was a success.The two waves of mass immigration to Israel occurred in completely different settings.At the time of the Mizrahi immigration of the 1950s, the old assimilationist version of assimilation was hegemonic inthesocialsciences,politics,and society,whereas theRussianimmigration of the 1990s enjoyed an atmosphere of moderate or nuanced assimilation thatresonateswithliberalmulticulturalism.Butthedecisivefactorisnottheatmospherebutratherthe actualconditions conducive to assimilation which were more favorable in the caseof theRussian immigration than in the case of the Mizrahi immigration.
The Mizrahi immigrants of the 1950s
From its proclamation in 1948 to the end of 1964, Israel absorbed 1,213,555 immigrants,of whom 648,160 (53%) were from Muslim countries, divided between 294,722 who camefrom Asia and 353,438 from North Africa.
Asian Jews (mostly from Yemen, Iraq andIran) arrived in the ﬁrst few years of statehood, settled in or close to the urban centers, andenjoyed better social services, while North African Jews (mostly from Morocco, Libyaand Tunisia) arrived later, were directed to the periphery, and given poorer resources.The story of the Mizrahi immigrants of the 1950s is essentially a story of failure. Giventheir own characteristics, the old-timers’ orientation, and the state’s abilities and policies,they had slim chances of succeeding in Israel, and their performance was indeed poor inboth the short and the long run.
On the whole, the conditions in Israel and the characteristics of old-timers at the beginningof the mass immigration of Mizrahim in the 1950s were conducive to unsuccessfulimmigrant absorption.
State and society
Mizrahim took little part in the Zionist project leading to the creation of a new Jewishsociety in Palestine and the State of Israel. Zionism emerged in Europe in response to the
The Journal of Israeli History