Israelis Abroad: Causes and Trends

UPDATE 12 pm Israel time, Saturday, August 10 2013:

What happened across the border in Rafah, Egypt yesterday evening remains shrouded in mystery this morning. Apparently, an IDF drone fired a missile at a Global Jihad launching pad just as the terrorists were readying a launch. The launcher was destroyed and 5 terrorists were killed.

However, the Egyptian military is going to great lengths this morning to say that it was not an Israeli strike but an Egyptian one.

What seems to be true is that the Egyptian and Israeli armies are working together to fight the terrorists in the Sinai. The closure of the Eilat airport two nights ago was apparently due to a tip from Egyptian intelligence that Al-Qaeda terrorists in the Sinai were in possession of shoulder-fired, anti-aircraft missiles with a range of 70 km that they were about to use to try to shoot down an Israeli passenger aircraft.

But obviously, the Egyptian Army does not want the Egyptian public to know that it is assisting Israel in the Sinai or vice-versa. The good news is that there are 5 fewer terrorists in the Sinai this morning though who knows how many have stepped in take their places?


Here are the facts:

*Total number of  Israelis: 8,000,000

*Total number of Israelis living outside of Israel: 1,000,000

*Total number of Israelis living in North America: 650,000 (of which some 250,000 live in the New York area and another 250,000 live in the Los Angeles area).

*Total number of high-tech employees who move abroad each year: 20,000

*Total percentage of Israeli PhDs who move abroad: 10.5%

*Subject of PhD holders most likely to leave: Science, math, and engineering (20% of Israeli math PhDs live abroad)

Israel is not the easiest place to live in, and let’s face the fact that the above numbers are not “pretty”.

One would think that the stress of waking up every morning and wondering if southern Israel has been rocketed from Gaza, Al-Qaeda terrorists have infiltrated the Egyptian or Syrian border, Hezbollah has added more chemical missiles to its arsenal, Iran has put more centrifuges online to refine uranium for nuclear weapons grade plutonium, or if Palestinian terrorists have struck throughout Judea and Samaria would make Israelis flee the country by the score.

Yet this is not the reason that most Israelis leave. According to all research, they leave in order to get a better job–or in many cases to keep their own jobs.

Over the last few years, there has been a virtual flood of Israeli start-up companies being bought by overseas investors who have moved the companies–and their employees–out of Israel. This movement has been added to by the extremely destructive (to Israel) attempts by states in the United States to woo Israeli businesses out of Israel to set up shop in the U.S. To give just one example, 137 Israeli businesses are now headquartered in the state of Massachusetts alone–a state which just happens to be the home of MIT and Harvard.*

However, there was a little good news in the last couple of weeks when yet another Israeli hi-tech company, WAZE, was purchased by Google for almost a billion dollars. Part of WAZE’s agreement to sell was that its Israeli employees would not need to move overseas to keep their jobs.

Finally, the downturn in world economies has begun to drive a movement of Israelis back to Israel as salaries are not keeping up with expenses. This has been particularly true in the California’s Silicon Valley which demands that a family make some $200,000 a year just to pay the bills.

Many Israelis have reported that their quality of life has begun to decline because their spouses have trouble getting an American green card (work permit). As an Israeli who works in Silicon Valley recently said in an interview: “Most of the Israelis in Silicon Valley, who are by now in their early 40s, probably want to return home. They love the country and see their future there. All they need is a place to return to and something to return to.”

Let’s hope that Nafthali Bennett and his new initiative to stop Israel’s brain drain provides them with that house and that job.

*Israelstreet thanks Haaretz and Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics for elements of this blog.

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