European Roma in the State of Israel

This paperwork was presented at Istanbul Romani Studies Conference
on 12 April 2003 by the member of International Romani Union and
The Society of Gypsies in Israel - Mr. Valery Novoselsky.
In August 2006 it has been published in a book Gypsies and the Problem of Identities. A. MARSH - I. B. Tauris.
More info on
European Roma in the State of Israel
The information on the presence of European Roma in the territory of modern Israel can be traced exactly from the year of it`s establishment in 1948.
Two years ago the lecturer of a Hebrew University Mrs. Kathi Katz has told me about the immigration of a group of 300 mixed Jewish-Romany families as a part of a bigger particularly Jewish Aliyah ( in modern Hebrew it means repatriation to Israel ) from Bulgaria in 1948-1951. According the testimonies of local tabloids the majority of them, of their children and grandchildren are still living in Jaffo and intend not to reveal their Romany identity to the other Jewish and Arab inhabitants of this town. The only ones who know that they are Roma are Bulgarian Jews who live near by.
There is the significant gap in time between the coming of mentioned above group and an info about the small number of Hungarian Roma working in Israel as entertainers and entrepreneurs since 1988, mentioned recently on Patrin mailing list.
But in contrary to mentioned above groups there are much more evidences of a Romany presence in Israel due to the numerous immigration to Israel of about 1 000 000 people from the former Soviet Union since 1989. There are hundreds if not thousands of people from a mixed Romany-Jewish or particularly Romany
background living in this country as ordinary citizens or permanent residents.
According my personal surface research ( personal encounters, phone conversations and postal correspondence ) on Romany individuals in The State of Israel I can suggest that they can be categorized in the following order:
1. Families where one spouse is Roma ( or part Roma ) and another one in Jewish ( or part Jewish ).
2. Families where one spouse is the descendant of Romany followers of Judaism ( usually from Poland ).
3. Individuals from a mixed background who have made their Aliyah ( repatriation ) alone.
4. Roma from Romania, Bulgaria and former Yugoslavia working as foreign workers
    in the construction industry together with their non-Romany compatriots.
5. Foreign Roma serving in various Christian missions in the Holy Land.
6. Romany musicians and artists living and working in Israel periodically.
1. Personal letter of Valery Novoselsky to the editor of a "Jewish Fork" edition of  "Novosti Nedeli" Russian Israeli newspaper which was published there as an
    article "It is the time to get away with the stereotypes" on 06.12.2001.
2. The story of an Israeli scholar Barukh Podolsky on Roma-Jewish connection in  a "Jewish Fork" edition of "Novosti Nedeli" newspaper - beginning of February 2002.
3. Friendly support of Russian Roma individuals in Haifa to a visiting musical group  "Chavale" from Moscow lead by Victor Svetlov - July 2002.
4. An article of Valery Novoselsky "Gypsy topic in Israeli press" posted in March 2003  in on-line magazine "Notes on a Jewish history" in Russian language.
1. Media campaign in Russian Israeli newspapers in order to affirm Roma issue
    and to connect isolated Roma individuals living in Israel.
    P.S. This campaing has been started on 29.04.2003 with the small add in the
    advertising section of 7 known Israeli newspapers published in Russian language.
    It will continue on a daily basis untill 28 May.
2. The establishment of an Israeli Romany cultural association.
The presence of several main categories of Gypsy people:
1. Roma-citizens. Not less than 600 extended families originally from Bulgaria.
2. Domari-residents. Up to 3 000 people. mainly in Eastern Jerusalem and Gaza strip.
3. Roma-foreigners. Thousands among the foreign workers from Balkans.
External factors:
- negative articles in mass-media reprinted from a foreign press.
- the lack of information on Roma from Romani sources.
- the virtual absence of antigypsism among Israeli Jews in contrary to the Jews of
   Central and Eastern Europe where such sentiments were existent in the past.
Cultural issues:
1. Romany language is used in already multilinguistic families ( Russian, Hebrew, English ... ).
2. There is a knowledge about the Romany cultural life in CIS and Europe.
3. Long-term personal correspondence and telephone connections in Romanes with individuals and organizations.
4. Development of internationally recognized Roma Network based in Israel.
The limited support in literature and CDs for individuals and finances for Roma Network comes from:
- Romano Rat. Berlin, Germany.
- Romano Centro. Vienna, Austria.
- Romane phrala. Moscow. Russia.
- European Roma Rights Center. Budapest, Hungary.
Political affairs:
1. There is no active participation of Israeli Roma in the local political life.
2. There is no knowledge on Roma political life abroad.
3. There is no official Roma or Domari policy in The State of Israel.
4. There was no any real scientific research on Roma living in Israel.
5. All the Roma living in Israel whom I personally familiar with share great sympathy
    toward Zionism and the Jewish State.
    P.S. In contrary to me who is known in Israel as a person with pro-palestinian views.
           However, those views relate with my part-Jewish background and not with the
           part-Romany one. I critisize Zionism as a Jew, but not as Rom.
Social issues:
- conditions of life are not different than of other new immigrants or long-term residents.
- there is not "mahalla" of European Roma in Israel. Only of Domari Gypsies.
- Roma intend to live in towns, but not in agricultural settlements.
- there is no community conferences, but there is a permanent communication
   on a family level - the real basis for grassroots organization.
Roma Holocaust issue:
- Relatives of victims are having the memory on what has happened in Europe in WW2.
- Denial and minimalization of Roma Holocaust exists on a certain level among the Israeli scholars.
Religious issues:
- There are those who claim themselves as the followers of Judaism and some of Christianity.
   However, noone intends to claim himself as an atheist.
Israeli Roma want:
- their children to know Romany music, language, dance.
- keep friendly connections preferably with Roma individuals abroad.
- to find one another in Israel someday.
Mr. Valery Novoselsky

Member of "The Society of Gypsies in Israel"
President`s advisor for Asia, Middle East and Latin America
The International Romani Union
International Correspondant of the RomNews Network

Masha Vashkovsky
Yosi and Raya's family
Valery Novoselsky
  •  Masha Vashkovsky - photo dated by January 2000 - Masha is originally from Belarus. She is the daughter of a Romani father and Jewish mother. Masha, her oldest sister Tanya and their mother Lyuba are Evangelical believers. Masha lives in Haifa, Galilee.
  • Josef & Raya Zubkov and their children are mixed Romani-Jewish family.  They emmigrated to Israel from the city Baku (Azerbaidjan ) in 1998. They consider themselves as subjects of Judaism. Zubkov`s family lives in the town Kiryat-Gat, south of Israel.
  •  The author of this paperwork - Valery Novoselsky. Town Kiryat-Shemona, northern Galilee.

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