Immigrant Youth in Israel – the Current Situation

In 2008, there were 60,000 immigrants aged 12-17 in Israel – around 9% of all youth of this age group in the country. Almost 70% of all immigrant youth in Israel are from the former Soviet Union (FSU), 12% are from Ethiopia and the remainder from other – mainly Western – countries. These immigrants are at a crucial stage of their lives, as they must simultaneously cope with the challenge of integrating into a new society and with the challenges of adolescence. Thus, there is much awareness about the need to provide special assistance to these youth, and concern about their integration.

In 2008, a comprehensive study of immigrant youth was conducted, aimed primarily at providing up-to-date information about immigrant youth from various countries, which will serve as a basis on which to plan policy, services and programs and for adapting existing services and activities to meet this population’s needs. The study examined many areas, including: socio-demographic characteristics; language proficiency; scholastic performance and perception of school; social integration; participation in recreational activities and informal education; risk behaviors; relationship with parents; identity; life satisfaction and assessment of the integration process. The data were collected from a representative sample of 680 teenagers (12-17) who arrived in Israel between 1991-2006, from 5 areas: Western (French-, English- and Spanish-speaking) countries, the former Soviet Union (FSU) and Ethiopia. The study also included a group of second-generation immigrants – those born in Israel to parents who immigrated from Ethiopia up until 1990. The data were collected through telephone interviews.

The findings of the study indicate the need to specifically address a number of issues that affect the integration and wellbeing of the youth.

  • To make school staff more accessible and increase their awareness of the needs of immigrant youth, so they can be a source of support when needed
  • To broaden scholastic assistance to weak students and to provide additional assistance in Hebrew, particularly to students who come from Western countries and from Ethiopia
  • To increase parental participation in their children’s lives, particularly among Israeli-born Ethiopians
  • To create opportunities for after-school activities and interaction among youth from different groups
  • To address the significant extent of risk behaviors and especially the heavy consumption of alcohol among FSU immigrants and English and Spanish speakers and the feeling of personal insecurity and involvement in fights among Ethiopian Israelis
  • To acquire deeper knowledge of the needs of Israeli-born Ethiopians, in light of the high prevalence of problems among this group.

In light of the importance and the nature of the findings, it has been decided to continue and to expand the study: an examination of second-generation youth from the FSU; an expanded sample of Ethiopian youth; as well as a parallel sample of non-immigrant youth in order to create a basis for comparison.

The study findings were presented to the Minister of Immigrant Absorption and senior Ministry staff and at other forums, including a national seminar that was organized for senior policy-makers and program directors from all areas. The findings will serve all professionals working with immigrants, particularly those at the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption and other government ministries, as a basis for planning policy, services and programs.

The study was conducted in collaboration with the Social Service and the Research Divisions of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption. The study is accompanied by an inter-ministerial committee that contributed a great deal to the planning of the study and the discussion of the findings. The study was funded with the assistance of the Ministry of Absorption and by the Harry Weinrebe Fund for the Advancement of Children.

In January 2010, the Institute conducted a seminar on immigrant youth, in cooperation with the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, and with the support of the Harry Weinrebe Fund for the Advancement of Children.

Citations in the professional and academic literature

Rubin, Lisa, et al. “Maternal and child health in Israel: building lives.” The Lancet 389.10088 (2017): 2514-2530.

Shechory, Mally, and S. Ben David. “Social dominance, family system and deviance among immigrant youth in Israel.” Minority groups: Coercion, discrimination, exclusion, deviance and the quest for equality. New York: nova Science Publishers, Inc (2012): 247-263.

Weiss, Shoshana. “Alcohol use and treatment among Former Soviet Union immigrants in Israel: review of publications July 2009–December 2011.” Journal of addictive diseases 31.4 (2012): 397-406.

Lifshitz, Chen Chana. “Fostering employability among youth at-risk in a multi-cultural context: Insights from a pilot intervention program.” Children and Youth Services Review 76 (2017): 20-34.

Chachashvili‐Bolotin, Svetlana, and Sabina Lissitsa. “Enrollment in Religious Schools and the Educational Achievements of Children of High‐Skill Immigrants.” International Migration Review (2016).

Korem, A., & Horenczyk, G. (2015). Perceptions of social strategies in intercultural relations: The case of Ethiopian immigrants in Israel. International Journal of Intercultural Relations49, 13-24.

Lifshitz, C. C., & Katz, C. (2015). Underrepresentation of Ethiopian–Israeli minority students in programmes for the gifted and talented: a policy discourse analysis. Journal of Education Policy30(1), 101-131.

Milevsky, A. (2016). Challenges and psychological adjustment of religious American adolescent immigrants to Israel. Israel Studies21(2), 27-49.

Zlotnick, C., Birenbaum-Carmeli, D., Goldblatt, H., Dishon, Y., Taychaw, O., & Shadmi, E. (2016). Adolescent immigrants, the impact of gender on health status. The European Journal of Public Health27(3), 453-459.

Ben-Rabi, D., Konstantinov, V., Baruj, R., & Cohen-Navot, M. Issues in the Evaluation of a Program to Promote Educational Achievements of Ethiopian-Israeli High School Students.

Zlotnick, C., Finkelstein, A., Keinan‐Boker, L., & Agmon, M. (2017). A matched case–control study comparing the health status of youth village alumni in Israel to the general population. Health & social care in the community25(3), 912-922.

Horowitz, T. (2012). Risk and Opportunity: The Integration of Russian Children and Youth into The Israeli Education System. Education and Society30(2), 49-66.

Levi-Keren, M. (2016). Bias factors in mathematics achievement tests among Israeli students from the Former Soviet Union. Cogent Education3(1), 1171423.


Citing suggestion: Kahan-Strawczynski , P., & Levi Viacheslav Konstantinov, D. (2010).Immigrant Youth in Israel – the Current Situation 2010. RR-561-10. Myers-JDC-Brookdale Institute. (Hebrew)