Latino Migrants in the Jewish State

Latino Migrants in the Jewish State

Undocumented Lives in Israel
Kalir, Barak
Distribution: World
Publication date: 07/08/2010
Format: Paperback 6 b&w illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-22221-3
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In the 1990s, thousands of non-Jewish Latinos arrived in Israel as undocumented immigrants. Based on his fieldwork in South America and Israel, Barak Kalir follows these workers from their decision to migrate to their experiences finding work, establishing social clubs and evangelical Christian churches, and putting down roots in Israeli society. While the State of Israel rejected the presence of non-Jewish migrants, many citizens accepted them. Latinos grew to favor cultural assimilation to Israeli society. In 2005, after a large-scale deportation campaign that drew criticism from many quarters, Israel made the historic decision to legalize the status of some undocumented migrant families on the basis of their cultural assimilation and identification with the State. By doing so, the author maintains, Israel recognized the importance of practical belonging for understanding citizenship and national identity.

Author Bio

Barak Kalir is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam and coordinator of the research program Illegal but Licit: Transnational Flows and Permissive Polities in Asia.


Lucid and persuasive . . . a fascinating case study of the tensions and strains of a state system seeking to define citizenship.A sophisticated study of Latino immigration in Israel . . . [that] makes a contribution not just to the study of contemporary Israel, but to the study of migrant labor, citizenship, and migration in the contemporary world.

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Table of Contents



1. Introduction: Undocumented Belonging

Part 1
2. Unsettling Setting: A Jewish State Dependent on Non-Jewish Labor
3. Destiny and Destination: Latinos Deciding to Leave for Israel

Part 2
4. Shifting Strategies: From the Accumulation of Money toward the Accumulation of Belonging
5. Divisive Dynamics: The Absence of Political Community and the Differentiations of the Recreational Scene
6. The Religious Forms of Undocumented Lives: Latino Evangelical Churches

Part 3
7. Israeli Resolution, Latino Disillusion: From Massive Deportation to Symbolic Legalization
8. Conclusion: A New Assimilation?


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