Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Notes from above ground

By the way, the strike is now in its 9th day with no end in site.

One thing you notice after a while in Israel is that there are LOTS of Russian-language bookstores. Ex-Soviet immigrants are less than 20% of the population, and yet my experience is that about half of all bookstores have Russian as the first language. (I think it's not just in the immigrant neighborhoods of Haifa. In the Jerusalem central bus station, for example, one of the two bookstores is Russian.)

If that observation is not surprising enough, there are several other factors which make it even more amazing. First of all, most of the Russians you meet are security guards and cab drivers; while there are undoubtedly many Russian professionals who work in less public locations, the initial impression is not of an "intellectual" population.

Second, many Russian speakers, especially young ones, presumably patronize Hebrew-language bookstores. But it's hard to imagine the reverse. So Russians must purchase books at an even higher rate than you'd guess from the number of bookstores.

Third and most surprisingly, I remember reading (can't find the source right now) that Israel as a whole has one of the highest rates of book consumption in the world. That of course refers to the average consumption by Israel's entire population. As we have seen, it appears that the consumption by Russian immigrants appears to be several times higher.

It therefore seems that these Russian immigrants are far and away the most literate population group anywhere in the world.

1 comment:

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

i've heard lots of stories about highly-trained Russian intellectuals and professionals who can't find jobs in Israel after making ‘aliyá. so that cab driver could actually be a neurosurgeon.