In 1963, a total of 4,500 Argentines immigrated to Israel. Most were from the middle or lower middle classes and had a Jewish and Zionist education, seen as an advantage for adaptation in the new country. However, they had been driven primarily by economic factors, and during Israel’s recession in 1966 a substantial portion of them returned to Argentina. In order to understand the migrant experience of these people this article analyzes their return, arguing that class and work were more pertinent variables than Zionist ideology. It is based on the experience of unemployed Argentine immigrants in Ashdod, the struggles of those who hoped to own their own business without sufficient funds, and a reconstruction of the return voyage aboard the ship Jerusalem. The Zionist hegemony in Israeli society prevented a thorough understanding of the material needs, and motivations of Jewish-Argentine migrants, therefore, the narrative on their arrival emphasized the ideological motivations. In contrast, their socio-economic background and needs received less attention. The case presented in this article demonstrates how the state narrative about the arrival of migrants to the country might deeply affect the narrative about the number who would not stay.
- middle class
- Return migration