• Germany's news in English

Young Israelis go crazy for Berlin

The Local · 24 Jan 2011, 11:47

Published: 24 Jan 2011 11:47 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

It’s 2 am on Saturday in a basement in Berlin’s central Mitte district. Israeli and German flags hang from a low ceiling above a packed, sweaty dance floor throbbing to Israeli pop music.

Behind the decks, young Israeli Aviv Netter, half his face covered in gold glitter, balances astride a chair and the mixing desk, arms outstretched above the crowd. This is “Berlin Meshugge,” a club night that mixes the Tel Aviv party spirit with Berlin’s celebrated gay scene.

“Berlin is the capital of pluralism and liberalism in the world today,” Netter says later.

The DJ and promoter started “Berlin Meshugge” three years ago, spotting a gap in the wide range of themed parties in the capital city. “Meschugge” is a popular Yiddish word for crazy.

“At Meschugge we are performing a great service - bringing some of the Tel Aviv spirit to Berlin,” he says. “It’s better for the image of Israel than anything the embassy might be putting out.”

Now 26, Netter came to Berlin almost five years ago and has witnessed a wave of young Israelis relocating to the city. Like expats from many other countries, they come to fulfill their creative and hedonistic dreams in the famously debauched capital.

According to census data, around 3,000 Israelis are officially living in Berlin. But because German law grants the right of nationality to the children of Holocaust victims, some estimate the true figure could be as high as 15,000.

“Oi Vey, you’re gay”

“I think the Israelis that are coming to Berlin are very Berlin Israelis,” says Netter while sitting at a trendy cafe in the Prenzlauer Berg district, a popular area among his countrymen.

His friend Ady, a DJ who splits his time between Berlin and Israel, speaks up on why the city’s legendary gay scene appeals even to Israelis from relatively liberal places such as Tel Aviv.

“When you come here no one can comment on your sexuality, you are free to explore new things. When you’re at home, even if you live away from your family in your own place, people talk,” he says.

Still Netter calls Tel Aviv the “little sister of Berlin,” and says he hopes to share Israel’s rich culture with with his receptive Berlin following.

“Maybe 20 percent of the people that come to Berlin Meshugge are Israeli. Eighty percent are Germans, completely German,” he explains.

Past meets present

Although the most recent wave of Israeli immigration to Berlin is mainly young people, they are not the first generation to settle in the city after the Second World War. Ilan Weiss, 60, the self-proclaimed “best teller of Jewish jokes of all the German insurance brokers,” has been a Berlin resident since 1990.

“Many ask me how come I live in the Germany of the Nazis, and I say that there are two nations, who can forgive each other or not, like Israel and Germany,” he says. “But people, they do forgive each other very easily. An individual can find a connection and forgive easier than a nation can.”

Weiss has been running a popular newsletter for Israelis living in Berlin for more than 10 years. With a circulation of over 2,000, many of his readers meet once a month to hear speakers and chat in Hebrew.

He also considers himself a bridge between German and Israeli culture, recently publishing a German-language book of Jewish humour entitled Sex am Sabbat? Moderne jüdische Witze, or “Sex on Shabbat? Modern Jewish Jokes.”

Yet unlike many of the younger Israelis flooding to Berlin, Weiss has not sought German nationality.

“I’m a guest in Germany - even though I’ve been living here for 20 years, and I’m comfortable with that,” he says. “I could get a German passport but I’d have to give up my Israeli one, and that’s part of my identity.”

Leaving the ‘promised land’

While many younger Israelis travel to Berlin in search of a good time outside of their homeland, Weiss says that the heavy nationalist streak in Israeli society can make leaving Israel “an act of cowardice...leaving friends behind to continue their war.”

He also avoids mentioning the difficult past between Germany and the Jews.

“I’m tired of being a representative of the Holocaust survivors or of those that were murdered. I don’t bring up the subject unless there’s a very good reason,” he says.

But many of the fresh young Israeli implants in Berlin insist that they don’t consider the political implications of their decision to move, despite remaining hyper-aware of precisely what these are.

Jonathan Naman, a freelance photographer and Berlin resident of four years, says that young Israelis view Germany as friendly thanks to its unwavering support for their homeland on the international stage.

“When I told people I had a German passport, they’d respond with, ‘What the fuck are you still doing in Israel?!’,” says Naman.

His German passport was considered such an asset that in the months before his departure he received four marriage proposals from Israeli women eager to leave the country themselves.

Story continues below…

One reason for Berlin's growing popularity seems to be increased exposure through a growing tourism industry between the two countries. In August 2010 daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that “Berlin is booming in the Holy Land,” citing a threefold increase in flights between the city and Israel.

“As generations progress, people are more open, even to Germany,” Naman says. “Some people in Israel still don’t ever want to set foot on German soil, even people my age, but this is just ignorance.”

The contrast between affordable, peaceful Berlin and what Naman calls “ugly Israel” – a country with a “market mentality” where people are “loud, crass and always willing to cut corners” - is also appealing to people like him, he says.

While Israelis argue that the daily grind of security checks and a palpable sense of living in a conflict zone becomes normal, it is unsurprising that this kind of stress would motivate so many of Israel’s youth to seek a more uncomplicated life elsewhere.

“One of the great things about Berlin is that it’s filled with foreigners, which is why it’s so easy to settle here - other foreigners are welcoming and the Germans are used to them,” he says.

Creative cooperation continues

Meanwhile new projects mixing the culture of Israel and Berlin are blooming throughout the city.

“I never thought that I would do radio in Hebrew and German in Berlin,” says Aviv Russ, who runs the bilingual language show Kol Berlin, or “voice of Berlin,” which he began in 2006.

He is enthusiastic about what the future holds, predicting that the Israeli-Berlin culture “will continue to grow, but as a different and alternative community.”

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

18:15 January 24, 2011 by Bravo2
This is wonderful to know. One more point for the great city of Berlin. The rest of Germany can learn a lot from its capital.
10:34 January 25, 2011 by catjones
¦quot;Berlin is the capital of pluralism and liberalism in the world today,¦quot;

Thilo Sarrazin
19:00 January 25, 2011 by wxman
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
10:15 January 26, 2011 by greatstones8
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
14:43 January 26, 2011 by petenick
I think that this is great. Everyone getting together for fun and tolerance. Let's get the whole world like this and we will all have a chance at true peace.
23:26 January 26, 2011 by willowsdad
Jonathan Naman considers crassness and materialism to be the ugliest things about Israeli society???? Can these things really be uglier than racism and militarism? Uglier than bombing civilians with white phosphorus and the continued expropriation of Palestinian land for apartheid colonies??? Uglier than the idea that these things are not only sanctioned but blessed by God alminghty????
00:30 January 27, 2011 by Avidror
@ willowsdad

Off course, (ignorant) Israel-haters have had to appear here and write (nonsensely) about things which have nothing to do with the matter.
15:31 January 27, 2011 by willowsdad
@ Avidror

Couldn't agree more--good thing their comments were removed.

Imagine someone leaving Germany in the 1930s because they thought the crassness and materialism of the public were the ugliest things about the place!
00:01 January 28, 2011 by wxman
Watch it, Willowsdad. My comment was rather benign and meant to be humorous, and look what happened. Thin skin here.
15:37 January 28, 2011 by willowsdad
I'm from the US, Wxman, so I'm well aware of the consequences. BTW, know what they do on here if they really don't like you? They block you from posting AND erase everything you've posted in the past. Very Orwell.
22:15 January 28, 2011 by surj
willowsdad, " Uglier than bombing civilians with white phosphorus and the continued expropriation of Palestinian land for apartheid colonies ..." And what do you American do to the Japanese dropping Atomic bomb? Palestinians should have not fired rockets into Israel and they do to this day. and they will be punished accordingly Google " Resolution181 Of The United Nation " and read it. And this is coming to USA soon www.bilp.tv/file/1382254 and www.thereligionofpeace.com
23:07 January 28, 2011 by DrGideonPolya
Comment removed by The Local for breach of our terms.
15:37 January 29, 2011 by Bruno53
One irony: Berlin is also home of many Palestinian Arabs, plus a large number of Arabs and Muslims. Ironic, isn't it?
16:05 January 29, 2011 by willowsdad
Bruno: One hopes some of these young Israelis will come into contact with some of these Palestinians and come to the realization that things must change. But then again, it's always relatively easy to get the people to see reason; not so much the leaders.
16:55 January 29, 2011 by liorabs

Some two weeks ago the last relatively existing labor party in Israel disintegrated as well. Generally speaking the Israeli left is becoming non existent, so it is moving to Berlin, I suppose.

When I read the above comment about the "Gaza Ceoncentration Camp", about Israel an "apartheid state", all I can say it that Might is Right and history can be rewirtten. In Twenty years there wont be a Europe anyhow, because the original natives dont bear children. Europe will be mostly composed of foreigners, and they seem to be rewriting history even now.


There are 60.000 babies born in Gaza yearly, the largest pop.demog.explosion in the world - this is not a concentration campl, it is a playboy love camp version for poor people. I am surprised at the local that entered this article into te e-magazine. It is reflective of left-media bias.

We dont have riots in Israel, we are not Tunis, not Algiers, not Egypt. Our Army and police dont run in the streets. As for the Israeli "Berliners" - they may do what they wish and they enjoy the intellectual and entertainment life of Germany, but they should not spit into the well they grew up in just for their ego aggrandizement and to be in the magazine.

I am a retired teacher. I had classes of all religions and ethnic origins - mixed. Shame on the Local.
00:07 January 31, 2011 by willowsdad
@ liorabs: Did you air racist views like that during your career as a teacher of all religions and ethnic origins?

Funny you should play the Europe-being-taken-over-by-foreigners card. Did you know a very similar version of that was used to stoke European anti-Semitism less than a century ago?
15:26 January 31, 2011 by liorabs
Excuse me, Mr.\Ms. willowsdad etc.

First - I do not identify Germany with Nazism. German people have done their best to show their horror of their past Nazi Leaders policies.

I was referring to some of the remarks here, such as "Palestinian Genocide"/ Since this is a downright lie. There is no Palestinian Genocide. There were c.250.000 local refugees in 1948 and nowadays there are c.10.000.000 Palestinians all over the world, and that is thousands of % growth.

Concurrently, there were 14.000.000 Jews after the holocaust (i.e. the Jewish Genocide) and the number of Jews now, in 2011, is c.13.500.000.

So definitely there is no palestinian genocide and there is no palestinian holocaust and certainly no palestinian concentration camps.

I say, that Europe and the West cannot wipe away a tradition of 2000 years. You call it by any other name, it will still stink. Europe will never give up its antisemitism, it will be like giving up God. It is in your cathedrals, in your religion, in your prayers.

If there is a God, he has sent the Muslims to Europe, because Jews and Muslims believe in the same God, the One God. Muslims and Jews are circumcised, Muslims and Jews dont eat Pork. So no, I dont mind you being filled up with foreigners.

Everyone knows that science depends on exactitude and on truth. I predict that scientific progress in your areas will decline, because you are embedding into your culture the culture of lies and the introduction of lies as truth - in order to further certain agendae.

Again, I protest against the statement that the Palestinians are undergoing a Genocide.

And yes, your hatred and your lies and fantasies are disgusting.

I know U wish for Israel as a state to disappear. Should it so happen, there will not be a mediterranean as you know it in a matter of few years.

18:27 January 31, 2011 by markoer
WOW I can only imagine a "class" held by such people as liorabs, must be sad indeed. "There is no genocide of infants, it's Palestinians that f*ck too much in the Lovecamp", LOL. Not even Monthy Python could elaborate such sarcasm.

15:40 February 1, 2011 by liorabs

"How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries; improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live. A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement, the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men. Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities, but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome."

Sir Winston Churchill; (The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pages 248-250) London
21:30 February 1, 2011 by noas
about Israel being racisist : more than 10 of its parlament memebers are arabs - how many turks are found in the Germa parlament??

about the "genocide" - these are amazing lies! I cannot believe that Germans in modern Germany falsify history so brutaly!

Palestinians and Israelis are still negotiating on the a teritorial sttelmenent.

according to wikileaks Israel was willing to compensate for peace

If someone does not remeber - it was the palestinian who first rejected the solution offered by the UN to have two countries side by side.

Their rejection have put the situation were it is today.
21:46 February 6, 2011 by DOZ
Re: noas

Negotiations were one sided in favour of Israel. Maybe if the Christian West had stayed out of it, there would be a peacefull solution by now.
23:48 February 6, 2011 by Stuart1977
Churchill had some pretty uncompromising things to say about Jews too.

But the fascists don't pick on Jews these days, they pick on a weaker target. Follow your leader.
00:41 February 9, 2011 by looshe

Just one comment, if you are to read something about Islam or Muslims perhaps it would be better to read it from a source or a Muslim, not from Churchill who had nothing to do with either, he's entitled to his opinion but it doesn't need to be imposed on others as IF it's the truth.
Today's headlines
German police carry out nationwide anti-terror raids
Police outside a building in Jena during raids on Tuesday. Photo: DPA

Police forces in five German states carried out raids on Tuesday morning with the aim of tackling the financing of terror groups, police in Thuringia have reported.

The Local List
10 ways German completely messes up your English
Photo: DPA

So you've mastered German, but now it's time to learn English all over again.

Iconic German church being eroded away by human urine
Ulm Minster towering over the rest Ulm surrounding the Danube. Photo: Pixabay

It will now cost you €100 to spend a penny. That’s if you get caught choosing to pee against the world-famous Ulm Minster.

German small arms ammo exports grow ten-fold
Photo: DPA

The government has come in for criticism after new figures revealed that Germany exported ten times the quantity of small arms ammunition in the first half of 2016 as in the same period last year.

14-year-old stabs 'creepy clown' in prank gone wrong
File photo: DPA.

A 16-year-old in Berlin decided he wanted to scare some friends, but his plot backfired in a violent way.

Four Ku Klux Klan groups active in Germany, says govt
An American member of the KKK at a gathering in Georgia. Photo: EPA.

The German government estimates that there are four Ku Klux Klan (KKK) groups currently active in the country, according to a report by the Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) on Tuesday.

Ex-chancellor Schröder to mediate in supermarket row
Gerhard Schröder. Photo: DPA

Can Gerhard Schröder bring an end to the Kaiser's Tengelmann saga?

Outrage over ruling on 'brutal' gang rape of teen girl
The now convicted suspects, sitting in court in Hamburg. Photo: DPA.

A 14-year-old girl was gang-raped and left partially clothed and unconscious in freezing temperatures. Now prosecutors are appealing the sentences for the young men found guilty, most of whom will not set foot in jail.

Dozens of Turkish diplomats apply for asylum in Germany
Demonstrators holding a giant Turkish flag protest against the attempted coup in Istanbul in July. Photo: DPA.

Since the failed putsch attempt in Turkey in July, Germany has received 35 asylum applications from people with Turkish diplomatic passports, the Interior Ministry confirmed on Wednesday.

Hertha Berlin fan club criticised for 'anti-gay banner'
Hertha BSC beat FC Cologne 2-1. Photo: DPA

A 50 metre fan banner apparently mocking the idea of gay adoption has overshadowed Hertha BSC's win in the Bundesliga.

10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd