Thousands of Israelis now consider Germany’s capital their home: NPR


People relax on a bridge in Berlin. An estimated 10,000 Israelis have settled in the German capital over the past decade, leaving a footprint on the city of more than 3.5 million.

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People relax on a bridge in Berlin. An estimated 10,000 Israelis have settled in the German capital over the past decade, leaving a footprint on the city of more than 3.5 million.

Sean Gallup / Getty Images

For decades after the Holocaust, many Jews refused to travel to Germany. Some still do.

But now it has become common to hear Hebrew spoken in bakeries and bars in Berlin.

It is estimated that at least 10,000 Israelis have settled in the German capital over the past decade, according to Tal Alon, the magazine’s editor-in-chief based in Berlin. Magazine in Hebrew Spitz. (The Israeli Embassy in Germany said it had no official statistics.)

Although the community is much smaller than some of the city’s other immigrant groups of over 3.5 million people, Israelis are culturally outnumbered. They are contributing to the booming Berlin food scene, with several upscale Israeli restaurants in the city, including Layla, opened last fall by celebrity Tel Aviv chef Meir Adoni. And the director of the Maxim Gorky Theater in Berlin, Yael ronen, is Israeli, just like Daniel Barenboim, the conductor of the Berlin State Opera.

Israeli food designer Itay Novik (left) lives in Berlin and is co-author of a new Jewish food guide to Berlin and contributor to a German-language Jewish cookbook.

Courtesy of Itay Novik


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Israeli food designer Itay Novik (left) lives in Berlin and is co-author of a new Jewish food guide to Berlin and contributor to a German-language Jewish cookbook.

Courtesy of Itay Novik

“If someone told me 10 years ago that one day I will live in Germany, I will speak German, and I would consider applying for [a] German passport, I would say they are crazy, “said one Israeli food designer Itay Novik, seated in a Berlin cafe with an Israeli friend.

Much of Novik’s mother’s family was killed in the Holocaust and he never considered going to Germany. But he’s been living in Berlin for eight years, having fallen in love with the city – and with a German.

Many Israelis who have moved to Berlin are like him: gay, or politically liberal, or independent in the artistic and creative fields, who feel at home in the avant-garde city, anything goes. In recent years, the Israeli expat community has broadened to include a more diverse demographic, including startup tech workers.

A dish prepared by Itay Novik: gefilte fish made from eel (not kosher).

Kfir Harbi / Courtesy of Itay Novik


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Kfir Harbi / Courtesy of Itay Novik


A dish prepared by Itay Novik: gefilte fish made from eel (not kosher).

Kfir Harbi / Courtesy of Itay Novik

“It’s a city where people don’t interfere in your life,” said Novik, co-author of a new Berlin Jewish Food Guide and contributor to a Jewish cookbook. He recently hosted an experimental Eastern European Jewish-style dinner for a Berlin food festival that he called Strictly Non-Kosher, featuring unorthodox recipes such as traditional gefilte-based fish cakes. non-kosher eel.

“The Israelis feel very welcome in Berlin,” said his friend Nirit Bialer. She heads a Berlin-based initiative called Lived familiarize Germans with Israeli culture.

Some young Israelis apply for German, Polish or European passports, obtaining the citizenship that was taken from their grandparents during the Nazi era. Often times, Germans express their gratitude that so many Israelis have made Berlin their home, despite history.

“It’s great that they find it cool to live here,” said Felix Klein, German government commissioner for Jewish life in Germany and the fight against anti-Semitism. “They contribute a lot.”

“The Germans always talk about reviving Jewish life in Germany. Of course, there is no way to piece together what they killed, ”said Alon, editor of the magazine aimed at Israelis in Germany. “But over time they begin to understand that they have to live with substitutes. The Israelis are kind of a substitute for the great German Jewish ethos that has been destroyed.”

Many Israelis choose Berlin for a practical appeal: the cheaper cost of living resulting from years of underdevelopment after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. This brought controversy home. Several years ago, an Israeli government minister accused Israeli emigrants of ignoring the Holocaust in order to live on the cheap.

Celebrity chef from Tel Aviv, Meir Adoni, opened Restaurant Layla in Berlin last fall.

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Celebrity chef from Tel Aviv, Meir Adoni, opened Restaurant Layla in Berlin last fall.

Daniel Estrin / NPR

It is difficult for Israelis in Berlin to escape historical baggage, a theme explored in The Land of Milk (y) and Honey, a recent game in a Berlin theater. Israeli actors shared actual anecdotes of Israelis in the city, like this one, which made audiences laugh:

“My partner and I go to sex clubs sometimes. I meet a lot of Germans. When they find out I’m from Israel, they always say, ‘Ah, that was such a bad thing, with Hitler and the Holocaust. ‘Don’t feel bad about the Jews.’ And I’m just like, ‘OK, thanks for saying that right now.’ “

As Berlin continues to expand, the Israelis have joined a real estate rush driving up rental prices in the city, with groups of Israeli investors buying entire apartment buildings in Berlin in recent years. To deflate skyrocketing rents, some in Berlin are calling for restricting foreign investment or even expropriating apartments owned by foreigners. But Israelis still find it worth investing in the city.

“The prices will certainly double in the next 10 years”, said Nizana Brautmann, Israeli real estate expert in Berlin and director of B-Space Estate, an investment company.

Return on investment isn’t the only satisfaction, she says.

When Israeli clients approach a Berlin apartment, she takes them to a notary. Outside the window is a memorial marking a place where the Nazis sent Jews to concentration camps.

“From the notary’s office, we look at this little memorial, and a lot of times I think, ‘You see? We’re back, “Brautmann said.” And that’s a good feeling. “

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