An Israeli Canadian returns to visit the Israel he left 48 years ago. He didn’t like what he found.


Jake Javanshir is a member of the Unitarian Congregation in Toronto. In 1970 as a young man he left Israel for Canada. Last June he returned for the first time to visit family and look around. On returning, he wrote a report on his thoughts and observations for fellow members of Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice (CUSJ).  With his permission, it is reprinted below. Read more.

I was born in a Jewish family in Iran. In 1950 my family emigrated to Israel, due to Zionist propaganda “To come to the land of milk and honey”, ( it turned out to be the land of discrimination instead). Last June, I went to Israel for 10 days, (mostly because my sister and two brothers kept asking me to). They with their children and grand children live in the central area of Israel, in a few thriving towns and cities, which 50 to 100 years ago either were not there or were simple villages.

As one lands in the huge and modern airport and drives out, one can feel and see the riches overall. From roads, boulevards,  villas, hi rise buildings, shops and malls, (including country clubs), with many villas and condos priced over a million dollars.

An extreme example, units in a new hi rise building in Tel-Aviv are priced for the equivalent of between seven to twenty million Canadian dollars.

Of course this is not the same in all areas of the country, but it is reflective of the overall situation and how prosperous the country is.

Needless to say that this is not the same in the Israeli Palestinian towns I visited such as Acre and the Palestinian part of Nazareth, where neglect is visible.

The general atmosphere among the Jewish Israelis, is one of living the high life. The dominant preoccupation is: which country next to travel to, which new foods and restaurants to eat and visit. These are talked about and discussed among the people, in newspapers and T.V. more than anywhere else that I know. As far as I know, Israelis are the highest travelers per capita in the world.

All the above is the result of hundreds of billions of dollars given in time by the world, including  all the support of the economy in hundreds of ways. These in time resulted in building and development and establishing a robust economy, especially in High tech, agriculture and weapons manufacturing.

Something else to keep in mind is that if Israel stopped the occupation and did peace with the Palestinians, most likely there will be a decrease in the billions which pour in, since “national security and imminent danger”, won’t be one the top fund raisers. A few reasons why Israel has no incentive to do peace.

In regard to West Bank and Gaza, my observation was that Israelis do not know what’s going on and really don’t care. The atmosphere is one of living the high life, while by propaganda and brain washing, they feel they are being victimized. Basically what most Israelis know about the past and what’s happening today, is very limited. The new generations know next to nothing about the past.

I noticed that little of what’s happening in the occupied territories is reported to the public and what is reported, in most cases is distorted or outright lies. One night on T.V. a reporter near Gaza was reporting on the situation. Repeatedly mentioning Hamas and saying that thousands were damaging the fence and throwing bombs on Israel all the while the picture on the back ground showing Gazans in a field just standing around, neither throwing bombs or damaging the fence.

In discussion with my sister and brother I mentioned a few recent laws or atrocities against Palestinians, but they knew very little about them.

When I mentioned house demolitions, my sister “corrected” me. “We purchased those homes and paid full price, but when they have to be vacated, the Palestinians refuse to leave.” Or another comment: Which army in the world is acting so humanly as the Israeli army. (this was in regard to Ahed Tamimi).

I noticed that coverage and explanations of the situation are totally distorted. “Nationalism”, is everywhere. Flags everywhere. Talks re pride everywhere.

I saw groups of young Jews from around the world everywhere. They come for 2 weeks, all paid for. Part of brain washing).

Religion also appears to be on the rise as many seculars are being “born again” as orthodox Jews. Entitlement is rampant. Extremism is rampant. Nationalism is rampant.

A question and an answer

One CUSJ member queried Javanshir on why he left Israel and why his views are so different from most Israelis.

Hi Jake,

You present an interesting report.  Not all Israelis hold the common view you describe, however.  You, for example, left Israel having become soured with the situation.  It would be interesting to know why you and some others come to a very different point of view.  In your case, relative to your siblings.  Any chance you could enlighten us?


Here is his answer:

Hi Don,

Thank you for asking for further clarification. It gives me the opportunity to add a few more points and a better perspective.

I left Israel by myself for Canada 48 years ago (1970), after serving in the army and working for a short few years. I did not leave due to the situation at hand. In those days the meanness of the successive Israeli policy makers and their true agenda was not known. Everyone assumed that we’ll have to return almost all of the occupied territories. The brutality which developed with time was not yet evident. No one envisioned what is happening today and that the Golan Heights will be annexed and much of West Bank will be taken over and about 800,000 violent settlers will settle in West Bank. It all happened in slow motion, as Israel went a bit further and the world did not act, this emboldened them more, and on, and on….

In those days the main topics of discussion among people, (including my friends), was endlessly praising of the army, as they were doing some small and show off incursions in neighboring countries, killing some and damaging properties. Moshe Dyan – the army chief, once said about the general who was in charge of the north of Israel: “At times when he was bored, he’ll fire a few bullets into Lebanon, once there was a response, that was a good reason for incursion.”

Another topic was endless talks re “religion”. Seculars against religious ones.

A third topic was “ethnic jokes and put downs”, all times everywhere.

An aspect of daily life in Israel at that time was, (and still is to lesser extent), ethnic discrimination by the European Jews toward Middle Eastern Jews. Now adays it’s more severe toward darker skins like Ethiopian Jews. Not to mention todays treatment of the asylum seekers refugees, which is absolute inhumane. (Their crime is that they are not Jews, not white and poor).

Corruption of the higher echelons, government and the army, was becoming more and more apparent.

By the way, corruption was and is prevalent in Israel. When I was there recently, ten city mayors were under investigation or arrested for corruption, mainly bribes from builders. It is a main topic of discussions, specially Netanyahu and his wife (perhaps due to too much money to go around).

All of the above made me fed up and curious to see if it’s the same in other countries. That’s the main reason I left, just needed a short break.

At that time all I knew, like almost all Israelis, (with the exception of the ones who actually participated in the atrocities prior to 1948 and in 1948), that European Jews came to Palestine to live side by side with the locals, but the Palestinians did not want them and five Arab countries attacked the almost defenseless Jews. Somehow, (by Gods miracle or more accurately by the sword), the Jews managed to get the upper hand. The propaganda and lies started already in the beginning of 1900.

Later here in Canada, hearing, reading and seeing a couple of documentaries, I realized that there was nothing further from the truth in the stories we were told.

In regard to why people like me are going against the majority, perhaps like all activists around the world who fight against injustices, (example CUSJ members), we are more sensitive  and willing to fight, even if it’s harming us at times.

In reference to Jews in general, a phenomena took hold that a Jew can not and should not act or talk against Israel. I believe that it’s the product of decades of propaganda and decades of dehumanization of the Palestinians, similar to Nazi Germany. Instead of rational discussion, a few slogans are always thrown at any one who is not a supporter. Holocaust, anti- semitism, Jew haters,  self hating Jews etc. The most ironic one that often thrown at me and others is: “You idiot, learn something before you open your mouth, you know nothing.”

As an example of my family, almost all are Zionists with the exception of one brother. It’s due to propaganda, cover ups, not knowing much about the truth, being selfish as life is good for them, the ideology that it’s us against the world and it’s generally much easier to go along than against.

Many Jewish activists including myself, have some members of their families who cut off all relations with them.

Of course, there are a lot of Jews who do not like what’s going on, but are silent due to obvious reasons. And a minority of the more educated Israelis who read the Haaretz newspaper, are against.

Many young Israelis have left and many more are leaving Israel due to not liking the situation.

There are many Israeli noble activists who document all the injustices, much to the detriment to their well being, like being attacked, called traitors or not being able to get employment etc.

Just a clarification from my previous email, where I emphasized the riches in Israel. What I said is true to the region of Tel-Aviv and all surrounding cities. The northern parts are also prospering. The south parts not much, that’s where mostly Oriental Jews live and in particular Ethiopians.

* One of first books about the subject written by an Israeli historian Ilan Pappe-“The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”, revealed the truths of what happened in Palestine in 1947 and 1948, was instrumental to many people, (including myself), to open their eyes. He left Israel due to threats to his and his children lives and teaching for many years in Exeter University in UK.

Don,  thank you. I welcome any opposing or different views.



Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue. We accept guest columnists from time and encourage brief comments (under 100 words) from serious readers. To learn more about what we do, contact us at


  1. Thanks for these heartfelt memories and the telling political disappointments of modern Israel.

    Real challenge is to use this disillusion over Israeli demoocracy, human rights and treatment of Palestinians by Jews and non Jews alike to generate momentum towards some sort of internationally accepted 2 state solution with internationalization of old city’s holy sites.- nothing new here just the fulfillment of original concept of partition adjusted to the modern realities.

    This is very difficult in the context of a rejectionist hardline Israeli govt and the uncritical pro Israel lobby who are too confused or hamstrung to say anything.. Neither have they any alternative to suggest and seem to prefer the endless conflict of the status quo which is the real existential threat to Jewish state of Israel as Arab Palestinians make up a greater majority from the sea to the river.

    Concerted and focused international UN support is needed to achieve such a solution.,

    It takes testimonies like this one and the continuing activities of the international Jewish peace groups to help turn the tide. Recently I made a contribution to Independent Jewish Voices IJV and Jewish Voice for Peace JVP; the latter is trying to raise funds to carry on its work beyond today designed to anger Adelson on his 84th birthday. Good luck to them.

  2. Mr. Javanshir’s article is an important contribution.

    One rarely heard point is “In 1950 my family emigrated to Israel, due to Zionist propaganda “To come to the land of milk and honey”, ( it turned out to be the land of discrimination instead).” This is an important statement because Israel’s supporter frequently claim that nearly a million Jews were expelled from Middle Eastern Countries by Jew-hating Arabs and Iranians. They never mention that Israel recruited them as is reported here. They also do not mention the resentment felt in Arab lands for the treatment of their fellow Arabs in Palestine.

    In response to the question of why Mr. Javanshir’s views are so different from other Israelis, I have an additional reason. Jews and Arabs in Palestine are kept apart by very pervasive propaganda. Several of my Jewish Israeli colleagues told me that they would like to have normal relations with Arabs but “they just want to kill us or drive us out”. However, I had the chance to talk to Arab colleagues in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. From them, I heard almost the same sentiment. They told me, that they would like to have normal relations with Jewish Israelis but “they just want to kill us or drive us out”.” Propaganda is keeping the two communities apart.

    When I told Israeli colleagues that I had spoken at Palestinian Universities, they looked at me with wonder. A few told me that they wish that they could do the same. When I asked why they couldn’t, they told me that they would be killed. In the Palestinian Universities, I was told that they would like to work with their Israeli colleagues but were not allowed to do. They added that even if they met Israeli colleagues at international conferences, they were not treated with respect.

    When I crossed from Israel into the West Bank, I was faced with large ugly signs warning me that I was in danger. In fact, I felt more welcome on the other side of the sign than I ever felt in Israel. Most Israelis have never had that experience.

    Palestinians and Jews in Palestine/Israel rarely seem to get to know each other except in very limited circumstances such as buying milk at a corner store. Fear and misunderstanding keeps them in part. Here in Canada, we can talk to each other without fear. Mr. Javanshir has been free to find the truth. Most of the people I met in Israel live in a closed world filled with propaganda.

    1. The difference however is the actual experience: Israelis have been killing and driving out Palestinians for 70 years.

  3. [Cc Group14+]

    Thank you Peter, for a lovely article; thank you Jake for a perspective delivered with kindness*. It reminds me so much of how South Africa was under apartheid (which was why we left there). I’ll pass it on. — Kim (*…and your policy “I welcome any opposing or different views”, similar to my ‘~I welcome questions, comments and corrections’)


  4. Jake is entitled to his opinions, but they are not based on the full picture. If there is a conflict, then there are two sides, so why say nothing of the Palestinian side? For example: why do the Palestinians (both Hamas and Palestinian Authority) have an alliance with Iran, a country that vows to destroy Israel? The Palestinian side is out there – in original format, no less (e.g., translates Arabic media). And I guarantee you, it informs Israeli opinion.

    By the way, I very much saw media images of Gazans throwing burning tires in what Jake calls a “peaceful demonstration.” What is his authority for declaring it “peaceful”?

    Jake also repeatedly labels the Israeli perspective “propaganda,” but the only explanation for this assertion is seeing/reading “a couple of documentaries” (in Canada!). And of these, only Ilan Pappe’s “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine” is cited. Apropos propaganda, here’s what Pappe stated in the French newspaper Le Soir, Nov. 29, 1999:

    “Indeed the struggle is about ideology, not about facts, Who knows what facts are? We try to convince as many people as we can that our interpretation of the facts is the correct one, and we do it because of ideological reasons, not because we are truthseekers,”

    And this video shows that Pappe was true to his propaganda agenda in “The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”:

    Bottom Line: Jake is welcome to make his case, but he should do so factually and coherently. If his main selling point is that he is a Jew who has “seen through” to how awful Israel is, then he is pandering to humanity’s lowest impulses and only lowering an already difficult conversation.

    1. Palestinians “have an alliance with Iran” because Iran has supported their cause from the start and has never wavered.

      The burning tires were not weapons; they were intended to create a literal smokescreen with the intent of interfering with the Israeli snipers who were shooting “at will”.

      If you go back and read Peter Larson’s excellent reporting from Gaza, you will see that the vast majority of those demonstrating were unarmed and peaceful. The Israelis on the other side of the fence were heavily armed and used those arms. They even shot completely peaceful medical personnel. Unfortunately, there were a few “hotheads” who responded to Israeli violence with violence.

  5. I was unable to print Jake’s summary, and would like very much to do so. Help!
    Charles Beckett, Ontario Canada
    “Faithful Action for Justice”

  6. Jake, eye-opening insights into Israeli society. Thanks so much.

    30 years ago, during the first intifada, I took two young Jews from West Jerusalem to Bethlehem (15 minutes in those days). They burst into tears, never having seen the illegal Palestinian flag or real Palestinians without devil’s horns.

    It sounds like not much has changed in 3 decades inside Israel.

  7. Reality:
    The writing is on the wall:

    NEWSWEEK – May 10/18
    “More Israelis are moving to the U.S.—and staying for good”
    “Spurred by the high cost of living, low salaries, and political and demographic trends, Israelis are leaving the country in droves.” By Yardena Schwartz

    “In April, as her family in central Israel prepared to celebrate Independence Day, Rachel Ohal was preparing for what she calls ‘every Israeli’s dream.’ The next morning, she awoke in her home in Los Angeles and drove to a ceremony to become an American citizen. She is one of at least 1 million Israelis residing in the United States. And if Israel—home to 8.8 million people—doesn’t change course, many more may soon join her.

    “Israel celebrates its 70th birthday in May with the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. Yet the country is grappling with an existential crisis—one that doesn’t involve Iranian nukes or Palestinian protests. Spurred by the high cost of living, low salaries, and political and demographic trends, Israelis are leaving the country in droves, trying to build their lives elsewhere, mostly in the United States. Many of these young Israelis are moving to big cities, and yet, even in these often expensive places, they see more opportunities to advance.”

    “The available data is telling, analysts say. Between 2006 and 2016, more than 87,000 Israelis became U.S. citizens or legalized permanent residents, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. That’s up from 66,000 between 1995 and 2005. These figures take into account only those who took the legal route (many Israelis, analysts say, arrive on temporary tourist, student or work visas, then stay). And in addition to the Israelis now living stateside, according to the country’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, hundreds of thousands have moved to Europe, Canada and elsewhere.

    “The country’s brain drain isn’t new. For years, many of its most talented scholars and researchers moved to the U.S., where the salaries are far higher and there are more jobs at top-tier universities. One report by Dan Ben-David, an economist at Tel Aviv University, found that the emigration rate of Israeli researchers was the highest in the Western world. Recently, however, the exodus has expanded to include average young people, many of whom say there’s simply no future in Israel.

    “Though this embattled country has become known as the ‘Startup Nation’ —it has more early-stage tech companies per capita than any other country—the average Israeli has little connection to that prosperous field. According to government data, 8 percent of Israelis work in high-tech, which pays up to seven times the national average salary of $2,765 a month (before taxes). Israel has one of the highest poverty rates and levels of income inequality in the Western world. Meanwhile, it also has one of the highest costs of living. Tel Aviv ranks ninth among the world’s most expensive cities, higher than New York and Los Angeles; five years ago, it ranked 34th. The situation is so dire that a 2013 survey by the financial newspaper Calcalist (the most recent Israeli study conducted on this topic) found that 87 percent of adults—many with children of their own—depend on substantial financial support from their parents.”

    Why Jews flee to Europe (or at least half of it)
    By Doug Saunders,
    Canada’s Globe and Mail, November 16, 2013

    “Have you heard about Europe’s Jewish exodus? Amid growing tensions and tough economic conditions, tens of thousands of educated middle-class Jews are fleeing every year – not out of the continent, but rather from Israel into Europe, and especially to Germany, which has become the chief destination (after the United States) for the half-million Israelis who have left the country amid its much-discussed ‘brain drain.’

    “This has taken both Israelis and many Europeans by surprise – and offended some Israeli leaders. Last month, Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, during a visit to Budapest, took to Facebook to denounce the growing wave of Europe-bound Jews who have become known in the Israeli media as the New Yordim (emigrants, or literally, ‘fallen’).”

    “European countries are seen by Israelis as stable, egalitarian and safe, while in an Israel governed by hard-line regimes, the zealots and the Orthodox seem destined to prevail. ‘With all due respect,’ Jerusalem Post columnist Susan Hatis Rolef recently wrote, ‘I think it is physically safer for a Jew to live in Berlin these days than in Jerusalem, though I do not belittle the emotional difficulty involved for a Jew to do so, given the not-too-distant history.’”

    In 25 years there will be three billion Muslims worldwide, about 150 million Iranians, 160 million Turks and well over 600 million Arabs, including 10-12 million Palestinians between the River and the Sea. The geopolitical and economic implications for the US and the western world in general are obvious.

  8. A number of difficult conclusions stem from these sraristics of serious outflow of liberaI Israeli Jews:

    – reduces the possibilities of democracy and human minority rights inside Israel and a peaceful solution for Israel Palestine
    – increases power of right wing and hardline Israeli politics and explains Netanyahu’s domination.
    Combined with low rates of aliya increases the demographic challenge to Iarael – now more Arab Pals than Israeli Jews from the sea to the river.
    – decreases power of the uncritical pro Israel lobby AIPAC, CIJA, ADL Bnai brith and increases the disillusionment citicism Israel among Jewish peace groups and other segments in turn bringing on Israeli and lobvy retaliation ie BDS and info wars
    – makes critical Jewish Israel’s requirement to achieve universal acceptance and security through an effective two state soln plus int of holy sites.
    – but at the same time increases Israeli rejectionism of such a solution therebye increasing Palestinian desperation and resistance …and the conflict goes on.and on and on…..
    – Reinforces Israel’s role as a garrison security state with inordinate miltary power including nuclear weapons and an Israeli internal security product sold around the world even on TV with “Fauda”
    – has given Canada some wonderful additions in scientific and business domains including Dennis Shapolov our no. 2 male tennis player.
    Enhances opportunities for intermarriage for Israeli Jews aboad which the new head of the Jewish Agency terms an international disaster.for Jews and the Jewish state.

    Hopefully when these and other conclusions are added up there wil be a plus card for a solution for Israel and Palestine with Jews and Palestinians able to live in and return to their national states in security, democracy and dignity -if they want

    1. Few facts about ‘Yordim’ the outflow of Jews from Israel
      1. They are overwhelmingly right-wingers, in a poll that was done few years ago more 60% said they will vote Likud if they could (Only residents can vote in Israel) Likud typically get 25% of the votes in Israel
      2. Annualy about 10,000 Israeli citizens leave Israel permanently, this number is shrinking every year since the ‘80. Furthermore this number was always lower than the number of Jews who immigrated into Israel in each and every year since 1948
      3. Most of the citizens who leave Israel were not born in Israel.
      According to Canada’s CIC, in the years 2007-2016 the annual immigrants with Israel as “source country” was 2200, out of which only about 800 were also born in Israel
      Both Dennis Shapolov and Jake Javanshir fit well into that statistics

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