Steve Kramer

Wanted/Unwanted Refugees

Refugees aren’t too popular these days in most countries. Israel has some unwanted refugees of its own. These refugees, commonly called “infiltrators” here, number about 30-40,000, down from a much larger contingent several years ago. What happened?

Israel’s policy has been to grant asylum to almost none of the mostly young, male, and Muslim illegal entrants, who infiltrated predominantly from Sudan and Eritrea via Egypt. In addition to discouraging asylum seekers, Israel built a “smart,” hermetic and imposing fence along its Egyptian border, reducing the number of new entrants to practically zero – a world first.

However, the illegals who are already in Israel have caused massive problems, mostly in neighborhoods of South Tel Aviv, where the locals complain about high levels of crime and their increasingly fearful existence in what now resembles a set in a dystopian film (think Blade Runner).

Many of the migrants have left “voluntarily,” accepting a relatively large stipend and a free airplane ticket to a “safe” African nation. There is lots of opposition to this policy, but that isn’t the subject of this article, which is about the love/hate relationship of Germany towards its recent, million-plus new immigrant arrivals, as described by the inimitable Tuvia Tenenbom in his latest book, “Hello, Refugees!”

This book is the third Tuvia Tenenbom book that I’ve read, following the enlightening “Catch the Jew!” which penetrates the bubble surrounding many leftist Israelis and too many journalists, and “The Lies They Tell,” which presents a very negative picture of American hypocrisy. Tuvia (his irreverent style breeds a strange familiarity) is an expat Israeli who has lived in the United States, Germany and elsewhere for many decades, working as a journalist and author. Holding many academic degrees, Tuvia is also a playwright, essayist, and the founding artistic director of the Jewish Theater of New York.

Most of you know about Germany opening its arms wide to (mostly Muslim) refugees from the Middle East, Afghanistan, Africa, etc. This is the product of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open border (really “open arms”) migration policy. This policy has been portrayed as wildly popular by the mass media, and for a time, it was something close to that. But a few years have passed, the bloom is off the rose, and good-hearted Angela has herself changed her tune, now relying on the dictatorial Turkish president, Recep Erdoğan, to keep the refugees in Turkey and out of Europe.

Tuvia, who mostly masquerades as German with half Arab parentage, describes his wanderings throughout Germany interviewing as many of the refugee population as he could find, as well as the many German citizens who were either happy or sad about the newcomers to the German Volk. This includes interviews with Germans of Turkish descent, whose parents or grandparents preceded the current migrants as “guest workers” several decades ago.

Germany, like most of the Western world (with the remarkable exception of Israel), faces a growing shortage of young workers to support aging workers retiring and expecting to be supported by their pensions and government programs. Germany and the rest of the EU countries are aging quickly, i.e. median age is 44. For comparison, Israel’s median age is 30. All of the EU countries share this aging problem, along with a worker participation average rate of only 58%, despite increasing numbers of young immigrants,

Note: Israel has its own troubles, with a worker participation rate – 64% – hindered by low rates for Israeli Arab women and male Ultra-Orthodox Jews. Despite that, Israel’s position is fifth best in the ECOC countries. (The US worker participation rate, 63%, is slightly lower than Israel’s.)

As noted above, Germany addressed its aging problem more than a generation ago with Turkish workers. But even as Turkish-Germans have grown to 5% of the population, the problem of filling German factories with workers has increased. Hence the decision by Merkel to admit “millions” of refugees to the country.

There’s another reason as well. Tuvia does an excellent job uncovering it: the need for Germany to be better than every other country by aiding anyone and everyone who shows up at the border. This, he supposes, is driven by guilt over the Holocaust (actually not really guilt, but a need to have a reputation as Good People to obscure their past as Jew killers.)

The problem is that, in Tuvia’s words, “none of the Good People has spent one second asking themselves: What next? What are we going to do with this million once we’ve transported them?” He spends a lot of time describing the excellent public relations and perfect transport organization welcoming the migrants and moving them to refugee camps – which are atrocious, soul-killing, institutions causing “psychological, mental and spiritual damage” to their inhabitants, who by the way, have brought their vicious, tribal rivalries from whence they came.

Tellingly, Tuvia describes his visit to a Mercedes factory touting its efforts at employing and assimilating deserving migrants into German life. It turns out that the large group of journalists and photographers must focus their journalistic efforts on just two examples (there were no others) of the exemplary endeavors of Mercedes: one assembly line worker mindlessly attaching a widget to another piece of metal all day long, and the other a clerk sitting at a desk with a pen in one hand and a mouse in the other, doing nothing at all.

Not that there aren’t some genuine good Germans, who empathize with their new neighbors. But on the whole, Tuvia finds a similar hypocrisy in Germany that he found while writing his book on America: a lot of hot air about brotherhood and liberality signifying nothing.

You can read Tuvia’s always witty but shocking prose in this, his latest book, available from and its publisher,

About the Author
Steve Kramer grew up in Atlantic City, graduated from Johns Hopkins in 1967, adopted the hippie lifestyle until 1973, then joined the family business for 15 years. Steve moved to Israel from Margate, NJ in 1991 with his family. He has written more than 1100 articles about Israel and Jews since making Aliyah. Steve and his wife Michal live in Kfar Saba.
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