Hila ZabanSOAS University of London, UK
My article “City of go(l)d: Spatial and cultural effects of high-status Jewish immigration from Western countries on the Baka neighbourhood of Jerusalem” discusses high-status privileged migration to Israel by Jews from Western countries, and its influences on one of the places where they settle – a Jerusalem neighbourhood called Baka.
My interest in the topic started from a resident’s perspective, as an Israeli-Jew who suddenly found herself in an English/French speaking environment, where housing prices were going up rapidly, new housing solely built and marketed for wealthy newcomers and where the cultural atmosphere was very accommodating for migrants, and less so for Israelis. I wanted to understand the processes at play and the immigrants’ perspectives.
The article discusses privileged migration to Israel, an ethnic immigration country, where the sole criteria for immigration is Jewish origin. I am dealing particularly with immigration of Jews from Western countries – the United States, France and the UK. The way Diaspora Jews imagine Israel and Jerusalem plays a crucial role in their decision to move there. Many immigrants choose to live near other expatriates in order to enjoy the comforts of the ethnic enclave. The paper deals with the outcomes of such choice, in terms of the spatial and cultural implications that privileged lifestyle migration has on the space in which it settles.
While Jewish immigration to Israel is termed “aliya” and their immigration is perceived as a homecoming, I choose to term it as a type of lifestyle migration, in order to place it among larger trends in contemporary immigration and the literature concerning it. By so doing, I aim to contribute to the understanding of the effects lifestyle migration has on cities, neighbourhoods and housing markets and to elaborate the understanding of who lifestyle migrants are, what motivates them and how they live in their destinations.
The paper focuses on the case-study of English- and French-speaking Jewish immigrants who live in the Baka neighbourhood in Jerusalem and on their effects on the neighbourhood’s gentrification process, its real estate market and issues of consumerism and belonging. This case-study demonstrates how lifestyle migration links with urban transformation. While gentrification has more often been studied in the global north, this paper shows that neoliberal processes, like gentrification or the global flow of capital and investments, are indeed much more encompassing.
While much has been written on the topic of gentrification, there is not so much on the combination between gentrification and immigration, and particularly high-status lifestyle migration, defined as the mobility of relatively privileged individuals in search for a better quality of life. Similar processes currently occur in many places and therefore, the spatial politics of privileged migration and its impact on cities, neighbourhoods and housing markets is a story that needs to be told. Moreover, as lifestyle migration has mainly been researched in the context of rural or coastal tourist destinations, this urban case-study illuminates a somewhat blind spot of this literature.