Jewish life is back in Berlin – but much different than in the metropolitan Golden Twenties. Over the last decade, Berlin has become one of the most desirable destinations among Israelis who choose to live abroad. In 2006, an estimated 3,000 Israelis lived in the German capital. Since then, Hebrew language and Israeli culture – hardly known and of little visibility back then – have increasingly contributed to Berlin’s international, multi-faceted face. In 2012, the Israeli Embassy in Berlin estimated the number of Israeli residents between 10,000 and 15,000. An exact figure is not available, since many Israeli Berliners hold a European passport.
For years, primarily Jewish students have decided to study in modern Germany’s capital. Today, an increasing number of Israeli families and young professionals are moving to the vibrant metropolis. A wide network of communication and exchange on living as an Israeli in Berlin has evolved. Social media, including blogs, Facebook groups and contact lists in the Jewish community help new arrivals feel at home.
The Hebrew city magazine Spitz aims to bridge the gap between Israelis and Germans. For Tal Alon, who founded the magazine after moving with her family from Tel Aviv to Berlin in 2009, it is most important to create understanding on both sides for cultural diversity and Berlin’s many faces. Another communal platform for exchange and networking is the non-profit initiative “Habait”, founded by Nirit Bialer in 2011, which organizes various events ranging from theater performances in former industrial sites to the Tel Aviv Beach Party at the River Spree. The events are open to the public and seek to create a relaxed atmosphere of dialogue about Israeli culture between people living in Berlin.
But the question remains: Why Berlin?
In a ranking of European hot spots, the city was rated one of the most affordable cities, since rents and costs of living are relatively low. At the same time the German economy is dynamic, creating opportunities for entrepreneurs. Some districts – like Kreuzberg – are home to a vibrant art scene and serve as a platform for a creative crowd. Many Israeli artists and writers come to Berlin to dive into this atmosphere. Making a living as an artist appears to be easier there than elsewhere. All in all, Berlin is an easy-going and relaxed metropolis where living is less affected by security concerns than in busy Tel Aviv.
For young Israelis, Berlin is a life far from home, family and expectations they would otherwise be confronted with. Some may enjoy greater personal freedom in Berlin and a chance to pursue their own way of life.
Whether for a few days, a year or several decades, staying in Berlin means that every day is an encounter with people and cultures. Berlin is both creative and down to earth; a melting pot where people relax and innovative minds can pursue their hopes and dreams.