The number of French Jews making Aliyah doubled since last year.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky recently noted, “For the last three years, the Jewish Agency has made a strategic investment to provide young French Jews with study abroad and internship opportunities in Israel through Masa Israel Journey. It is wonderful to see the fruits of our labors as large numbers of young French Masa participants retun to Israel to live their permanently.”
By the end of this year, an estimated 2,500 new immigrants will have arrived from France, which has the third-largest Jewish community in the world after Israel and the United States. This number almost doubles the amount of French Jewish immigrants from previous years. Additionally, 1,000 French Jewish youth will participate in long-term immersion programs in Israel.
Increasingly, antisemitic violence plays a role in the decision to emigrate from France.In 2012, Algerian Islamist Mohammed Mera murdered three Jewish schoolchildren and a rabbi – as well as three French soldiers – in attacks in and around the French city of Toulouse. In 2006, 17 year-old French Jew Ilan Halimi was kidnapped and tortured to death by a Muslim gang. “The feeling in the community is that there’s no future,” said Oded Feuer, the World Zionist Organization’s Director of Aliyah Promotions. Feuer explained that in addition to antisemitism, economic and legal circumstances often drive Jews out of France. “The conditions in France in a way tell the people ‘find your future somewhere [else],’” emphasized Feuer.
In response, various Jewish groups seek ways to increase aliyah from France. The Netanya Municipality, alongside the World Zionist Organization, recently organized an aliyah event attracting hundreds of French Jewish tourists. Potential applicants received updated information about new absorption programs and tips on how to adjust to any difficulties associated with moving to Israel. Performers Omar Adam and Libby Ren also attended. Israeli officials at the event called upon all French Jews to make aliyah, chanting “next year in Jerusalem!”
“The community of France is very traditional, with strong Jewish and Zionist identities,” Feuer said. “They are never afraid to say that they love and support Israel. With this strong identity, we want them to connect the identity and beliefs that they have. Israel is a great place, not just for two months in the summer and for coming for the [holidays] or to have your wedding or bar mitzvah, but to live all year long.”
By Rachel Avraham, staff writer for United With Israel