From PresenTense, my article on Israelis liviing in the United States. Here is an excerpt:
For a long time, Jews who immigrated out of Israel were viewed in a negative light. By leaving Israel, they physically rejected and negated what the Jewish state stood for—an ingathering of exiles. Given that Israel as a democracy could not bar its citizens from leaving, its only tool was to bludgeon their Zionist superego with guilt.
The stigmatization was evident in the language itself. The very Hebrew word for the people who left the country is “yordim” —literally, those who descend or go down. This stood in stark contrast with “olim”—literally those who ascend or go up. In 1976, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin famously described yordim as “leftover weaklings” and “lowliest of parasites.” Rabin later retracted his statement, but for a long time afterwards, the notion stuck in the collective consciousness of most Israelis.
In recent years, the Israeli government has taken a different and softer approach to the phenomenon of yordim. Instead of shaming them into returning, the government has attempted to entice (some would say bribe) them back.
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