Anti-Semitism in Israel?

By Dina Kraft

TEL AVIV (JTA) – Ari Ackerman, a student from Switzerland, was walking home after a late-night swim along the Tel Aviv beach when he and a friend were jumped by a gang singing Nazi songs and displaying swastika tattoos.

The perpetrators, a group of Russian-speaking teenagers, eventually ran off. Ackerman and his friend, their faces bruised and bloodied, set off to the closest police station only to have their case shrugged off.

“Israel is a country that faces the same problems any other country faces,” Ackerman said, trying to make sense of what he experienced. “There is a phenomenon of neo-Nazism, even if it is fringe, but to acknowledge it is to go against the country’s own narrative.”

In recent years sporadic acts of anti-Semitism have hit Israel, most of them carried out by disaffected immigrant youths from the former Soviet Union. Although the youths came to Israel under the Law of Return, th ey are among those who identify not as Jews but as ethnic Russians.

Under Israel’s Law of Return, a cornerstone of Israel’s identity as a haven for all Jews, anyone with a Jewish parent or grandparent is permitted to immigrate and be granted citizenship.