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Residential transit camps for immigrants in Israel established in the early 1950s.

In the years 1950 to 1952, when Israel was unprepared for mass immigration, about 250,000 immigrants (many of them from Iraq and Romania) lived in about 110 maʿbarot (plural of maʿbarah ). Conditions were dismal: Housing was in canvas shacks and tents, or at best in tin huts; infrastructure, sanitation, and water supply were deplorable; health and education facilities were inadequate. But in comparison with the immigrant camps of 1948 to 1949, people were less dependent upon public officials, and there were more employment opportunities. Maʿbarot were spread throughout the country, particularly near agricultural locations, and the government undertook massive relief-work projects. Many maʿbarot residents put down roots in their localities and stayed on to live in permanent housing that was eventually erected nearby by the government. Most residents obtained housing within two to three years, but some remained in temporary housing for close to ten years. Beginning in 1953 immigrants were moved to newly built houses, ending the maʿabarot stage of absorption.

The bitterness of the maʿbarot experience, particularly among adot ha-mizrah (Israeli Middle-Easterners), had wide ramifications in Israeli politics and culture. It figures in Israeli literature, particularly in the writings of major authors of Iraqi origin such as Sami Michael, Shimon Balas, and Eli Amir. In their earlier writings the authors presented realistic descriptions of the assertiveness of maʿbarot residents striving to become established Israelis. In their later writings some of the authors depicted social uprootedness and alienation, and some evinced nostalgia for the Jewish life of their countries of origin.

see also adot ha-mizrah; refugees: jewish.


Berg, Nancy E. "Transit Camp Literature: Literature of Transition." In Critical Essay on Israeli Society, Religion, and Government: Books on Israel, Vol. 4, edited by Kevin Avruch and Walter P. Zenner. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

Bernstein, Deborah. "Immigrant Transit Camps: The Formation of Dependent Relations in Israeli Society." Ethnic and Racial Studies 4, no. 1(1981): 2643.

shlomo deshen