New immigrants from France were greeted by Israel’s Chief Sephardic rabbi, integration minister and Jewish Agency chairman as well as family and friends.
By United With Israel Staff
Israel recently welcomed 100 new immigrants from France, many of whom noted that growing anti-Semitism in their country was a catalyst for their move.
Upon landing in Israel, the excited flight passengers burst into applause and song.
As the immigrants disembarked on the tarmac at Ben Gurion International Airport, cheering fans, family and friends waved Israeli flags. Many cried with emotion and some bent down to kiss the ground that their ancestors only dreamed of touching for 2,000 years.
“It’s hard to be saying goodbye to my family, but I hope they will follow me…. I’m confident they will,” said a young man, according to The Jerusalem Post. “I know life in Israel will be better – I will be more free to be Jewish, and that’s what I’m looking so forward to.”
Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog boarded the plane, personally welcoming them and thanking the new Israelis for making such a “big decision.”
“You are Israelis – and that is everything,” he said, according to the Post.
Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef told the crowd that they were performing a “massive mitzvah (Biblical commandment)” by moving to Israel.
French Jews have immigrated to Israel since its founding. However, since 2000, Israel has experienced an upswing of French aliyah due to rising anti-Semitism in the country. Between 2000 and 2017, 10 percent of the French Jewish community immigrated to Israel.
In 2018, Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett increased efforts to encourage French Jews to make aliyah and ease their adjustment to their new home.
“Every Jew in France should know, as should Jews anywhere in the world, the State of Israel awaits them with open arms,” Bennett said in a statement.
During a cabinet meeting in 2018, Bennett presented data that showed 43 percent of French Jews, around 200,000 people, had stated that they were interested in moving to Israel.
The Jewish Agency reported that French immigration dramatically rose in 2014-2015 due to growing fear of anti-Semitic attacks and economic stagnation, as well as Zionist leanings.
However, Central Bureau of Statistics figures for 2018 show a decrease of French immigration by 23.5 percent from 2017 to 2018.
“The Ministry of Immigrant Absorption is doing everything it can to enable these immigrants to adapt to Israel in the best possible way,” Minister of Aliyah and Integration Yoav Galant said, according to Arutz 7. “We will continue to work energetically to encourage aliyah and to absorb thousands of additional immigrants this summer.”
For those who do move to Israel, emotions run high.
“I can’t believe we finally made it. I’m here, I’m here. What a dream come true,” a French immigrant told the Post.
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