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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Exodus to Israel flows backward

Oksana Korablova has come home. Two years ago, age 52, Korablova got an exit visa to Israel and a chance to start over. But the Jewish scientist never found what she was looking for. So last July, Korablova traded in her dream to live in the West for steady work and a life that is familiar.


Korablova, who grew up in Russia under state-sponsored anti-Semitism and was the victim of such policies, said she thought of defecting many times in her youth to be able to live a freer life.


"I remember my father crying in 1948 when he heard on the radio that Israel was formed", she said, adding that at first it was very emotional for her to be in, a "Jewish" country. "But, the spiritual bond was not enough to keep me there".


Josi Ben Dor, himself a Russian emigre who now works as press attache for the Israeli Embassy here acknowledges that there have been problems.


"Israel failed", he said. "We could have done more. Instead we imported Soviet problems. We have no selection process. Our gates are open to everyone".


For many of the 400, 000 Soviet Jews, who packed their bags and fled to Israel over the past three-and-a-hal-fyears, their new home did not turn out to be the promised land. Stripped of their social security blankets, Soviet emigres found themselves on their own - without work or adequate housing. So as Russia undergoes its second revolution, Jews are beginning to trickle back to their homeland.


While Israeli and Russian officials are aware of the new phenomenon, they say exact numbers are hard to come by. Gone are the days of tightly-guarded Soviet borders, when those who left were stripped of their citizenship enabling officials here to follow the trail of those who returned.


Israeli consular officials guess that about 60 Russians a month are returning. Vladimir Lvsynovitch, who heads UVIR's visa and registration department places the number of returning emigres at 2, 000 for 1991.


"We expect more to return in the future", he said. "The main trouble is that they can't find their place in the Western way of life".


That was the case for Korablova and her 22-year-old son Vadim, who left for Israel a few months before his mother. Vadim spent almost three years shuttling from one menial job to another, barely able to make ends meet.


Vadim, who came back less than two months after the failed August coup, still cherishes his Israeli passport anddreams about returning one day. His mother, however, said that her overall experience was humiliating, and is back in Moscow for good.


"There are no possibilities to find good work", she said, adding that she has become an entrepreneur and now makes lots of money. "There are too many Russians there. Also, in Israel I felt more discriminated against than here. The situation is close to Moscow in how refugees from the republics are treated here".


Russian immigration officials say the bulk of returning Jews are from Israel. But they also see a minority coming back from places like the United States for other reasons. Some are simply seizing new business opportunities. Others feel a need to help rebuild their birthplace.


For one Jewish emigre, who was denounced as an "enemy of the people" when he first applied to leave in 1975 but is now an advisor to the Russian government on economic issues, the reason to come back is summed up in one word. Money.


Having lived all over the United States, the middle-aged man first returned on business for one week in 1988. "I was scared", he said. "I remembered well what the country was all about. The grey. The misery. It was the most difficult week of my life. It took several months to get overit".


Since then he has shuttled back and forth to Moscow, ultimately deciding to relocate here temporarily with his family.


"I know exactly why I am here", he said. "I get paid for it. When the job is done I will leave. I am an American citizen".


Twenty-three-year-old Masha Chursina, who left Moscow in 1981 with her mother and has since lived in both the United States and Israel is idealistic about staking out a new life in Moscow. Though her mother was Jewish, Chursina never knew about her religion until she was 11 years old and said anti-Semitism had nothing to do with her leaving - or returning.


"Nothing has been done here", said Chursina. "There are so many possibilities. The people who are here now are forming what will be tomorrow, despite the difficulties".


Chursina, whose father's side of the family cut off communication with her after she left, returned for a visit last summer. "It was a sort of trauma", she explained. "I had forgotten everything - my friends, school, teachers. But like amnesia, everything slowly came back. At the end of a month and a half I felt like I was back home".


In the midst of studying for her master's degree in Israel, Chursinadecided she wanted to start over in her birthplace, despite strong opposition from her mother and friends.


"It's like having a sick arm, which you don't want to admit is there", she said, explaining why she decided to move back. "After a while you can't ignore it anymore".


Chursina, who works for a foreign firm involved with media here, has high aspirations. She is working on several projects that involve kids, as "it has to be the new generation that changes things".


Chursina says she feels Russian, even though she lived in the United States and Israel. "I owe my free spirit to the West", she said. "But I don't miss it".