More than 200 French Jews arrived on Monday from Israel on a special flight from Paris, which is the largest number of new olim (those that ascend to Israel) from Europe and anywhere in the world this summer. Among them there are 74 minors. The youngest, who travels with his parents and brothers, is two and a half months old; The eldest, 92 years.
Immigration was organized by the Jewish Agency for Israel, who accompanied them since they made the decision to move to the Jewish state a few months ago and until they settle in, learn the language and integrate into programs designed to adapt them to Israeli society. The agency also organized a plan to educate young people about Jewish culture and history and about professional possibilities in Israel, to remove barriers to employment.
In the last five years, the Jewish community in France, the second largest in the world (excluding Israel) after the United States, with nearly half a million people, is the one that has brought to Israel more immigrants: more than 30,000 People have made their aliyah, the ascent to Israel.
“It is characterized as an act of its own choosing. Someone with a passport from France, a G-7 country, can emigrate to almost any country in the world, and the fact that these thousands of people have chosen Israel is very significant for all of us, “the spokesman for The Jewish Agency, Yigal Palmor, an ex-diplomat in Paris and Madrid. “This immigration means that Israel brings a meaning they can not find anywhere else.”
In recent months, 5,200 Jews from Ukraine, 6,000 from Russia and more than 1,000 from Brazil have also arrived, which has tripled the number of Jews of Brazilian origin who immigrated lately to the Jewish state.
“If we are to be afraid of the terrorists, better to have it in the land of our fathers”
In the last 15 years, more than one million French people left the country for economic, political or social reasons. Some of the French Jews also settled in Miami, London, New York, Boston and Montreal, creating communities with colleges, nurseries and synagogues for the French community.
In 2014 for the first time in Israel’s history more than 1% of a Western Jewish community made aliyah in a single year, a success that was repeated in 2015 with the arrival of 7,800 immigrants from France. Since the beginning of the 21st century, more than 10% of the French Jewish community has emigrated to Israel, half in the last five years.
Many settled in two Mediterranean cities, Netanya and Ashdod, but those with more means buy or rent houses in Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Ranana and Jerusalem. About 50%, according to the Jewish Agency, are religious; 30%, Jewish traditionalists, and 20% lay.
Yosi Menashe, who runs a French-style hair salon in Neve Tzedek, the first neighborhood built in Tel Aviv beyond the port of Jaffa, explains that the motivation of the French Jews is obviously related to having been in the sights of several Attacks and also with the rise of the extreme right of Marine Le Pen. “If we have to be afraid of the terrorists, the Islamic State or Al Qaeda, then better to have it in the land of our parents,” he says.
Their clientele, French and French arrived in recent years in Tel Aviv, speaks with a mixture of nostalgia for the land in which they were born, but also with some relief to meet with his family in Israel. Neve Tzedek, like certain areas of Ashdod and Netanya, looks like a French quarter: fine dining restaurants, though many kosher; Bakeries in which baguettes are sold; Epiceries and boutiques of French brands. In recent months, French music and film stars such as Johnny Hallyday, Patrick Bruel or Patricia Kaas have filled rooms and parks in Israel.
“Changing countries is always traumatic, but in this case many feel that coming to Israel is like coming home,” said Monique, 26, a medical graduate in Paris who is now studying to validate her title in Israel. “In addition,” he adds, while drying his hair in the hairdresser, “when he gets the nostalgia, Paris is very close to Tel Aviv.”