Israel’s Immigration and Absorption Ministry presented its findings to the Knesset this week that more than two thirds of French Jews are considering leaving the country. The findings were presented in the context of an Israeli government effort to increase immigration from France; however they raise serious concerns that a prolonged exposure to increasingly virulent forms of anti-Semitism are taking their toll on the sense of security felt by Jewish communities in France and across Europe.
Many ascribe the migration to Europe’s economic problems and the rising specter of anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish violence in France. … Recent findings by the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency indicated that a third of Jews from several Western European countries were considering emigration due to anti-Semitism….
Of the two-thirds considering leaving, half (or one-third overall) are looking to Israel as their destination. Nearly 60% of French Jews have close relatives living in Israel.
The past year saw a spike in French Jewish immigration to Israel, from about 2000 per year during 2008-2012, to over 3,300 in 2013. France is currently home to the third largest Jewish community in the world, after Israel and the United States. The majority of immigrants to Israel have been the young – just out of school – and retirees.
In December of last year, the Jewish Agency’s envoy in Paris, Ariel Kandel, observed, “The French Jews are very Zionist, and that’s not a new thing,” and that “about 70 percent of them have visited Israel at least once – a much higher rate than anywhere else.” Kandel also cited the Toulouse Jewish school shooting, which occurred two years ago this week, as a factor leading to last year’s spike in immigration from France.
Moshe Kantor the President of the European Jewish Congress said this week:
Unfortunately, since the savage murders in Toulouse, there have continued to be physical attacks against Jews in Europe, as well as many very real threats which were thankfully averted.
As we saw in the recent report by the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency, most Jews in Europe fear to visibly identify as Jews and parents are afraid to send their kids to school in the morning. Society and governments must fight back with the full force of the law and by providing the necessary security for Jewish communities.
Last year France was not alone in seeing a spike in its numbers of immigrants to Israel. It appeared to be a trend all over Europe. The Times of Israel reported in January:
The phenomenon was not limited to France. Western Europe as a whole saw a 35% increase in aliyah in 2013, driven by a 46% increase from Belgium and a 57% increase from the Netherlands. A poll released in November indicated that a full 75% of self-identifying Jews in Western European countries have considered emigrating because of anti-Semitism.
In addition the Times of Israel reports that while immigration to Israel from the United States and Great Britain was down in 2013, it increased from other English speaking countries as well as from South America.
Last year it was reported that Israel had become the world’s largest Jewish population center, surpassing the United States. Jews facing persecution and uncertainty are increasingly seeing Israel as a potential refuge.
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