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Abstract

This article focuses on portrayals of recent women migrants from the (former) Soviet Union in Israel, as these found expression in jokes and in articles in the press. Analysis of these portrayals suggests that the ubiquitous association of the newcomer women with prostitution served to construct them as morally and socially fragmented. Loosened from the moral bounds of familial and, by implication, national ties, the newcomer women were located beyond the boundary of the Israeli Jewish collective. As the mirror image of the ‘loose’ newcomer women, mother-like, Israeli Jewish women were seen as eminently suited to the task of ‘domesticating’ the newcomers – bringing them in from the street into the familial, and national, home. The discussion suggests that the portrayals of the women as prostitutes served as ‘national cautionary tales’, which not only instructed their audience (newcomers and oldtimers alike) in fundamental tenets of Israeli Jewish national identity, but also warned those who might seek to undermine the ethno-national attachments and loyalties that lie at the heart of the Israeli polity.