Non­fic­tion

Leav­ing Zion: Jew­ish Emi­gra­tion from Pales­tine and Israel after World War II

Ori Yehu­dai

January 14, 2020

The sto­ry of Israel’s foun­da­tion has often been told from the per­spec­tive of Jew­ish immi­gra­tion to the Land of Israel. Leav­ing Zion turns this his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tive on its head, focus­ing on Jew­ish out-migra­tion from Pales­tine and Israel between 1945 and the late 1950s. Based on pre­vi­ous­ly unex­am­ined pri­ma­ry sources col­lect­ed from twen­ty-two archives in six coun­tries, Ori Yehu­dai demon­strates that despite the dom­i­nant view that dis­placed Jews should set­tle in the Jew­ish home­land, many Jews instead saw the coun­try as a site of dis­place­ment or a way-sta­tion to more desir­able lands. Weav­ing togeth­er the per­spec­tives of gov­ern­ments, aid orga­ni­za­tions, Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties, and the per­son­al sto­ries of indi­vid­ual migrants, Yehu­dai brings to light the ide­o­log­i­cal, polit­i­cal, and social ten­sions sur­round­ing emi­gra­tion. Cov­er­ing events in the Mid­dle East, Europe, and the Amer­i­c­as, this study pro­vides a fresh transna­tion­al per­spec­tive on the crit­i­cal peri­od sur­round­ing the birth of Israel and the post-Holo­caust recon­struc­tion of the Jew­ish world.

Discussion Questions

This well-writ­ten schol­ar­ly book tells the sto­ry of Jew­ish out-migra­tion from Pales­tine and Israel between 1945 and the late 1950s. The author uses pre­vi­ous­ly unex­am­ined pri­ma­ry sources in twen­ty-two archives in six coun­ties. He presents sub­stan­tial evi­dence that many Jews saw the coun­try as a site of dis­place­ment or a way sta­tion to more desir­able lands. He relates the dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives of gov­ern­ments, aid orga­ni­za­tions (includ­ing the Amer­i­can Jew­ish Joint Dis­tri­b­u­tion Com­mit­tee), Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ties, and the per­son­al sto­ries of indi­vid­ual migrants, to bring to light the ide­o­log­i­cal, polit­i­cal, and social ten­sions sur­round­ing emi­gra­tion. Cov­er­ing events in the Mid­dle East, Europe, and the Amer­i­c­as, this study pro­vides a fresh transna­tion­al per­spec­tive on the crit­i­cal peri­od sur­round­ing the birth and ear­ly years of Israel and the post-Holo­caust recon­struc­tion of the Jew­ish world.