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  • by ziggy (25) on 2003.01.19 21:00 (#16159) Journal
    But while the Russians are rightwing on security and economic issues, they view religious conservatives with suspicion and complain of maltreatment at the hands of the orthodox. Many are unable to marry because only religious weddings are permitted under Israeli law and the chief rabbis refuse to recognise them as Jewish. The defence ministry calls up young Russian immigrants to serve in the army while the interior ministry denies them rights because they are not deemed Jewish.
    That's not exactly an untenable position. During the great influx of "Russian Immigrants" in the late 1980s and early 1990s, many Soviet Emigrees were so anxious to leave the former USSR that they'd try to immigrate to any country that would have them. Israel has a policy that grants immigrating Jews a stipend for a year or so after they immigrate to get on their feet, plus various forms of training and free education (including intensive classes in Hebrew and Jewish/Israeli life).

    All in all that is a very nice immigration program. Compare it to that of the US, which does not provide for English language lessons, housing, training or instant citizenship. It was so good that many Russians would quietly confess that they weren't Jewish, nor was there a Jewish relative in their families. Because there was no way to prove any given Russian was or was not Jewish, they were all welcomed. (The right-wing Israelis would look at this as an opportunity to increase the Jewish/pro-Israeli population in Israel and start new settlements in the West Bank.)

    Fast forward a few years, and many of these citizens have fufilled their military service, but have no proof that they are Jewish. It's an open secret that many of these Russians are not Jewish, and came to Israel only because of the very generous immigration program. So the Rabbis won't marry them (mixed marriages not being allowed under religious law). I'm sure many of them have left the country to get married by now. Cyprus isn't that far away after all...