Ex-Soviets change the face of Israel

Israel has the world's third-largest Russian-speaking community outside the former Soviet Union, after the U.S. and Germany. The Soviet Union crumbled 20 years ago, and in the aftermath, more than 1

million of its citizens took advantage of Jewish roots to flee that

vast territory for the sliver of land along the Mediterranean that is

the Jewish state. By virtue of their sheer numbers in a country of 8

million people and their tenacity in clinging to elements of their old

way of life, these immigrants have transformed Israel.

In this Nov. 4, 2012 photo, a choir practices in a government-funded elderly care facility catering to Russian-speaking immigrants in Ashdod, southern Israel. The choir sings Russian standards and Israeli folk songs translated into Russian. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Nov. 4, 2012 photo, a choir practices in a government-funded elderly care facility catering to Russian-speaking immigrants in Ashdod, southern Israel. The choir sings Russian standards and Israeli folk songs translated into Russian. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Nov. 4, 2012 photo, a choir practices in a government-funded elderly care facility catering to Russian-speaking immigrants in Ashdod, southern Israel. The choir sings Russian standards and Israeli folk songs translated into Russian. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Oct. 31, 2012 photo, Bella Perlin, center, and Avraham Shapiro, left, Belarusian immigrants, eat breakfast in their home in Hadera, northern Israel. They emigrated to Israel in 1991 at the height of the wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Oct. 31, 2012 photo, Bella Perlin, center, and Avraham Shapiro, left, Belarusian immigrants, eat breakfast in their home in Hadera, northern Israel. They emigrated to Israel in 1991 at the height of the wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Oct. 31, 2012 photo, Bella Perlin, center, and Avraham Shapiro, left, Belarusian immigrants, eat breakfast in their home in Hadera, northern Israel. They emigrated to Israel in 1991 at the height of the wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this July. 6, 2012 photo, Alexandra Bahman, who emigrated to Israel from Moldova in 2006, sits in her bedroom with her cat. Bahman left Moldova with the carpet and photos that now decorate her bedroom walls, in Ashdod, Israel. Ashdod is heavily populated by immigrants from the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this July. 6, 2012 photo, Alexandra Bahman, who emigrated to Israel from Moldova in 2006, sits in her bedroom with her cat. Bahman left Moldova with the carpet and photos that now decorate her bedroom walls, in Ashdod, Israel. Ashdod is heavily populated by immigrants from the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this July. 6, 2012 photo, Alexandra Bahman, who emigrated to Israel from Moldova in 2006, sits in her bedroom with her cat. Bahman left Moldova with the carpet and photos that now decorate her bedroom walls, in Ashdod, Israel. Ashdod is heavily populated by immigrants from the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Oct. 30, 2012 photo, a carpet covers the bedroom wall in Tsila Gorenstein's apartment in Be'er Sheva, southern Israel. In her native Moldova, heavy carpets were hung on the walls to heat homes during wintertime, but in the scorching desert town of Be'er Sheva, the carpet is hung for decoration only. Israel has one of the world’s largest Russian-speaking communities outside the former Soviet Union, and the immigrants’ tenacious clinging to their old way of life has transformed the Jewish state. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Oct. 30, 2012 photo, a carpet covers the bedroom wall in Tsila Gorenstein's apartment in Be'er Sheva, southern Israel. In her native Moldova, heavy carpets were hung on the walls to heat homes during wintertime, but in the scorching desert town of Be'er Sheva, the carpet is hung for decoration only. Israel has one of the world’s largest Russian-speaking communities outside the former Soviet Union, and the immigrants’ tenacious clinging to their old way of life has transformed the Jewish state. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Oct. 30, 2012 photo, a carpet covers the bedroom wall in Tsila Gorenstein's apartment in Be'er Sheva, southern Israel. In her native Moldova, heavy carpets were hung on the walls to heat homes during wintertime, but in the scorching desert town of Be'er Sheva, the carpet is hung for decoration only. Israel has one of the world’s largest Russian-speaking communities outside the former Soviet Union, and the immigrants’ tenacious clinging to their old way of life has transformed the Jewish state. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Feb. 3, 2012 photo, a waiter serves traditional Russian food at a seaside restaurant in Ashdod, a southern Israeli city heavily populated by immigrants from the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Feb. 3, 2012 photo, a waiter serves traditional Russian food at a seaside restaurant in Ashdod, a southern Israeli city heavily populated by immigrants from the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Feb. 3, 2012 photo, a waiter serves traditional Russian food at a seaside restaurant in Ashdod, a southern Israeli city heavily populated by immigrants from the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Jan. 31, 2012 photo, the children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union attend a ballet class in Lod, central Israel. Some prominent ballet dancers left the former Soviet Union for Israel, forming ballet schools and continuing a dance culture highly regarded in their countries of origin. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Jan. 31, 2012 photo, the children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union attend a ballet class in Lod, central Israel. Some prominent ballet dancers left the former Soviet Union for Israel, forming ballet schools and continuing a dance culture highly regarded in their countries of origin. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Jan. 31, 2012 photo, the children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union attend a ballet class in Lod, central Israel. Some prominent ballet dancers left the former Soviet Union for Israel, forming ballet schools and continuing a dance culture highly regarded in their countries of origin. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Dec. 4, 2012 photo, two immigrants from the Ural region of the former Soviet Union rinse off after bathing in the Mediterranean Sea in the early morning, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Many Soviet immigrants gather at the beach for a traditional winter dip, the closest substitute to the freezing waters of the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Dec. 4, 2012 photo, two immigrants from the Ural region of the former Soviet Union rinse off after bathing in the Mediterranean Sea in the early morning, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Many Soviet immigrants gather at the beach for a traditional winter dip, the closest substitute to the freezing waters of the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Dec. 4, 2012 photo, two immigrants from the Ural region of the former Soviet Union rinse off after bathing in the Mediterranean Sea in the early morning, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Many Soviet immigrants gather at the beach for a traditional winter dip, the closest substitute to the freezing waters of the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this combination of fifteen photos all taken on Dec. 24, 2012, Russian-speaking Israelis who immigrated from the former Soviet Union, and who are competing in a Russian-language trivia contest in Tel Aviv, Israel pose for portraits. Israel has one of the world’s largest Russian-speaking communities outside the former Soviet Union, and the immigrants’ tenacious clinging to their old way of life has transformed the Jewish state. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this combination of fifteen photos all taken on Dec. 24, 2012, Russian-speaking Israelis who immigrated from the former Soviet Union, and who are competing in a Russian-language trivia contest in Tel Aviv, Israel pose for portraits. Israel has one of the world’s largest Russian-speaking communities outside the former Soviet Union, and the immigrants’ tenacious clinging to their old way of life has transformed the Jewish state. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this combination of fifteen photos all taken on Dec. 24, 2012, Russian-speaking Israelis who immigrated from the former Soviet Union, and who are competing in a Russian-language trivia contest in Tel Aviv, Israel pose for portraits. Israel has one of the world’s largest Russian-speaking communities outside the former Soviet Union, and the immigrants’ tenacious clinging to their old way of life has transformed the Jewish state. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this June 14, 2012 photo, Natalia Lerner, who immigrated to Israel in 1991 from the city of Tyumen in Siberia, presents her cat to the judges of a cat competition in the central Israeli city of Holon. Cats are prominent in Russian culture, and most members of Israeli cat societies are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this June 14, 2012 photo, Natalia Lerner, who immigrated to Israel in 1991 from the city of Tyumen in Siberia, presents her cat to the judges of a cat competition in the central Israeli city of Holon. Cats are prominent in Russian culture, and most members of Israeli cat societies are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this June 14, 2012 photo, Natalia Lerner, who immigrated to Israel in 1991 from the city of Tyumen in Siberia, presents her cat to the judges of a cat competition in the central Israeli city of Holon. Cats are prominent in Russian culture, and most members of Israeli cat societies are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Nov. 9, 2012 photo, gymnasts from Russian-speaking immigrant families warm up at a gymnastics competition organized for Israel's immigrant community, in the southern resort city of Eilat. Most of Israel's Olympic gymnasts are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Nov. 9, 2012 photo, gymnasts from Russian-speaking immigrant families warm up at a gymnastics competition organized for Israel's immigrant community, in the southern resort city of Eilat. Most of Israel's Olympic gymnasts are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this Nov. 9, 2012 photo, gymnasts from Russian-speaking immigrant families warm up at a gymnastics competition organized for Israel's immigrant community, in the southern resort city of Eilat. Most of Israel's Olympic gymnasts are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this March. 9, 2012 photo, Russian-speaking Israelis dance to Russian pop beats at the Soho nightclub in Tel Aviv. The club caters to the Russian-speaking immigrant community, featuring hired dancers and extravagant decorations rarely seen in informal Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this March. 9, 2012 photo, Russian-speaking Israelis dance to Russian pop beats at the Soho nightclub in Tel Aviv. The club caters to the Russian-speaking immigrant community, featuring hired dancers and extravagant decorations rarely seen in informal Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this March. 9, 2012 photo, Russian-speaking Israelis dance to Russian pop beats at the Soho nightclub in Tel Aviv. The club caters to the Russian-speaking immigrant community, featuring hired dancers and extravagant decorations rarely seen in informal Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this March. 8, 2012 photo, Russian-speaking Israelis dance to Russian pop beats at the Babylon nightclub in Tel Aviv. The club caters to the Russian-speaking immigrant community, featuring hired dancers and extravagant decorations rarely seen in informal Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this March. 8, 2012 photo, Russian-speaking Israelis dance to Russian pop beats at the Babylon nightclub in Tel Aviv. The club caters to the Russian-speaking immigrant community, featuring hired dancers and extravagant decorations rarely seen in informal Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
In this March. 8, 2012 photo, Russian-speaking Israelis dance to Russian pop beats at the Babylon nightclub in Tel Aviv. The club caters to the Russian-speaking immigrant community, featuring hired dancers and extravagant decorations rarely seen in informal Israel. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

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