The phone has been ringing the bell at Ocean Relocation for a few months now. Based near Tel Aviv, the company provides services to people who want to migrate.
And since the Israeli government presented its legal reform plans, the company has received four times as many applications from people wanting to leave the country. “We now get an average of 100 requests a day, which is more than I’ve ever experienced,” says manager Shay Obazanek.
The company was founded 80 years ago, before the state of Israel existed, with the goal of helping Jews from all over the world migrate to what is now Israel. Until recently, this was also the company’s main source of income. Since the protests against the reform plans, that has been reversed.
“We have never before seen more applications from people who want to leave Israel than from people who want to migrate here,” says Obazanek.
Tens of thousands of Israelis have been taking to the streets every week for fifteen weeks to demonstrate. They are against government reform plans. With these plans, the government wants to give the Supreme Court less power in favor of parliament. The demonstrators fear that democracy will be damaged and that Israel will begin to look more like a dictatorship.
Fear of dictatorship
That is also the fear of Tom Ziv from Tel Aviv. He demonstrates weekly against the reforms and is in the process of leaving Israel. “The reforms that the government wants to implement are moving the country towards a dictatorship,” says Ziv.
The current government is the most right-wing and religiously conservative government Israel has ever had. Ziv fears that the government will ultimately want to make the country more religious if it gains additional power. “I’m afraid that eventually I won’t be able to live the secular way I want. And that my daughters, when they grow up, won’t be able to live freely and make the choices they want to make.”
He is therefore busy applying for German passports for his two daughters. He himself already has a German type of porridge because of the background of his grandparents. “They fled Germany from the Nazis and settled here.”
By far the most applications are to Europe.
For example, more Israelis are entitled to a foreign passport through their parents. According to Obazanek, that is one of the reasons why many Israelis want to migrate to Europe. “The vast majority of applications concern Europe. It is close to Israel, some people already have a European passport and especially highly educated people can find a job there relatively easily and thus obtain a residence permit,” he explains.
The Netherlands is one of the popular countries. Tom Ziv also has the Netherlands on his list: “We are not only looking at Germany, but are also considering other countries. It is important to us that we can communicate well with the English language, because that is the language we speak in addition to Hebrew. “
Anti-Semitism abroad is not a reason for Ziv to stay in Israel: “I know anti-Semitism is there, but I don’t see it as a phenomenon more threatening than the threat of reforms when I stay here in Israel.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu recently announced that he would put reform plans on hold and first talk to the opposition about a compromise. That does not seem to reassure opponents of the reforms. Many have lost faith in the prime minister and weekly protests continue.
“Even if the reforms don’t come through now, they will in the future. Because the figures show that the right-wing, more conservative part of the population is growing the fastest. So I think it’s a matter of time,” says Ziv. He therefore does not hesitate to stop applying for German passports for his family. “I keep demonstrating, but I have little hope.”
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