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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Identity and integration among Israeli migrants in Canada Harris, Brent David

Abstract

Scholarship on migration has flourished in recent decades along with increasing interest in how migrants both experience and negotiate life abroad. Here I present a case study of the Israeli community in Vancouver as a way of engaging with these issues. The study is based on research that I conducted in 2008-09, involving nine months of participant observation in the community and 34 in-depth interviews. This research explores the process of identity formation among Israeli migrants in Canada and is framed by prevailing theories of identity, ethnicity, migration and transnationalism. On the whole, the Israelis I interviewed have maintained a strong sense of Israeli identity. While the majority are content with life in Canada, few consider themselves Canadian. Meanwhile, many have developed a stronger Jewish identity in Canada where, unlike in Israel, Jews constitute a minority. This phenomenon closely follows Fredrik Barth’s theory concerning the link between identity formation and the maintenance of group boundaries. However, many of my informants have encountered social barriers in their interactions with Canadians, including Canadian Jews. These social barriers can hinder Israelis’ involvement in the Canadian Jewish community. Thus, many of my informants forge strong social networks with one another and their participation in the Canadian Jewish community varies. By comparing these findings to research conducted in the Israeli community in Toronto, I conclude that Israeli patterns of identity and social network formation differ little between large and small communities. This study further sheds light on some of the problems faced by new immigrants in Canada and the extent to which local ethnic communities may aid in their process of integration.

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