Marina Kontsevaya: "Number of Russian-speaking residents of Jerusalem increasing"
Despite relatively high prices, within 11 months of this year, Israel was visited by almost one and a half as many Russians than a year earlier. Usually Russian citizens are eager to visit Jerusalem, which is not just the birthplace of the world's three major religions - Christianity, Judaism and Islam, but also a historical and archaeological site with a large number of cultural layers, the most ancient of which date back to the 10th-9th century BC. Jerusalem City Council Member on Immigration and Absorption, Marina Kontsevaya, told Vestnik Kavkaza about the ties being preserved and developed between Israel and Russia.
- How is Russia assessed in Israel today?
- About a million of former USSR citizens live in Israel. Some of them still have Russian citizenship. It as impossible during the Soviet times, and after its disintegration in 1991, people were able to retain citizenship. A lot of them continue to keep in touch with their first homeland. Top-level communications are important as well. The head of our government, Benjamin Netanyahu, often holds meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. They discuss, in particular, security issues. Now security on the northern border of Israel is mainly discussed, since there are still military operations in Syria. Israel, of course, reserves the right to defend itself, but thank God, there have been no serious, extreme events, there is constant coordination. They treat Russian culture well in Israel. A lot of artists perform here, concerts are held. The films are shown in Russian, there are Russian channels, there is Channel 9 - an Israeli channel which broadcasts in Russian. The news always highlights events in Russia.
- How strong are the ties between the Russian immigrants in Israel and their relatives in Russia?
- Relatives from Russia visit us. Now we are preparing for the New Year - a holiday that is devoid of religious symbols. All Russian-speaking citizens remember how they celebrated the transition from an old year to a new one, this family holiday is always very cheerful, very joyful. On New Year's Eve, the Jerusalem municipality distributes Christmas trees near the Jaffa gate at the entrance to the Old Town.
Recently, the Days of Moscow were held in several Israeli cities and in Jerusalem. Our Jerusalem municipality has established fairly dense and strong ties with the government of Moscow. In September, I represented the Jerusalem municipality at the Days of Jerusalem in Moscow, which were held on Zubovsky Boulevard. There was a youth festival - young people related to art, design, came to Moscow. There was a fashion show, a screening of films made by the guys from the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. We do this every year. In September we met with the mayor of Moscow Sergey Sobyanin, we had a tour in the Zaryadye Park, which impressed us. We have similar parks in Jerusalem, but not so huge. We call them clever parks, as there are technological innovations that help people better understand the idea of the park.
- How significant are Russian immigrants for the life of Israel? What is the dynamics of repatriation from Russia?
- Jerusalem is my hometown for about 30 years. In the municipality I am responsible for working with repatriates and pensioners, the number of which in our city is sighnificant. The city is very different. Both Muslims and Christians live here, there are a lot of tourists. Jerusalem holds the first place among the cities accepting new immigrants. Most of them come from Russia and Ukraine. The number of Russian-speaking residents in Jerusalem is increasing. And the age of these immigrants is up to 45 years. In the 1990s, many elderly people came, and now there are many young people, some of them live in two countries. Thanks to the ties and the current situation, it has become possible.
- In which areas are humanitarian contacts between Russia and Israel developed?
- Israel has achieved incredible success in high-tech field. This is recognized throughout the world. Everything connected with computer technologies, telephony, the Internet is developed here and contribute to the development of relations with Russia. As for cultural ties, we have opened several theaters that first worked in Russian, and now - both in Hebrew and Russian. The Gesher Theater received global recognition. Cinema, theater, musical performances - there is a cultural exchange across the spectrum.
- In which economic areas can Russian-Israeli cooperation be developed most effectively?
- In agriculture. Israel invented an irrigation system that allows you to grow vegetables and fruits under adverse conditions. There is no land in Israel, only stones, but we import both carrots and potatoes. In addition, construction projects are being implemented. Now a railway is being built, along which it will be possible to travel to Tel-Aviv from Jerusalem in 28 minutes. This is absolutely fantastic, a revolutionary thing. We have much less distance than in Russia, but conditions are not easy. For example, the temperature difference - Jerusalem is 7-8 degrees colder than Tel Aviv The project is complicated - it was necessary to build tunnels, etc. And the competition for the construction of the road was won by the Russian company Nedrastroy. This is a good example of the fact that cooperation between Russia and Israel is strong and effective.