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A growing number of British Jews are considering making aliya or buying properties in Israel because of a growing climate of anti-Semitism, one of the country's community leaders has said.
Alan Aziz, executive director of the Zionist Federation of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, spoke to The Jerusalem Post after more than 8,000 people attended a massive exhibition it organized to promote aliya - a rise from 5,000 the year before.
The London event, called "From Israel with Love," contained more than 175 exhibits on how to make aliya, where to go traveling in Israel and how to buy an Israeli property. It also included booths celebrating and promoting Israeli culture and lifestyle.
As well as celebrating Israeli culture, "a number" of visitors to Sunday's event were interested in Israeli real-estate and possible emigration.
"I am sure that increased anti-Semitism is part of [the reason]," Aziz said. "People have said to me that the level of anti-Semitism is creeping up. In many ways it is disguised, but it is still recognizable. It is, perhaps, less in the mind-set of British people than elsewhere in Europe, in countries such as France - but it is still there."
The fear of anti-Semitism in Britain was highlighted by Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks. Last month, in a special message to mark Rosh Hashana, he warned of a new wave of anti-Semitism, saying, "There have been times, the first in my memory, when it has been uncomfortable to be a Jew in Britain."
In the message, Sacks condemned calls made by Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, to abolish Holocaust Memorial Day and also cited remarks with "anti-Semitic undertones" by academics who unsuccessfully attempted to initiate a national university boycott of Israel earlier this year.
Fears of terrorism and Islamic extremism increased over the summer. The British government and London's Metropolitan Police have repeatedly warned that other attacks are likely after July 7's quadruple bomb attack that killed 52 London commuters, and Prime Minister Tony Blair's attempt to introduce new 90-day detention-without-charge powers for suspected terrorists was defeated in Parliament last Wednesday after a massive rebellion by many of his lawmakers.
Aziz indicated this, too, could have had a bearing on why so many people expressed an interest in buying property in Israel or moving there.
"Now is a time when people are concerned about what's going on in the world, both in Britain and outside," he said. "It has definitely had an impact," he said, adding that the Zionist Federation's event was "the biggest Jewish event held in the UK during the last year."
"We had 5,000 people last year, but we had over 8,000 this time," he said. "I do not have the statistics on aliya files or on the number of properties that were sold, but there were certainly a number of them. But all the exhibitions, whether they were promoting moving to Israel, traveling to Israel or going on holiday, generated a huge amount of interest."
According to numbers from the Jewish Agency, 413 people made aliya from the UK in the first 10 months of 2005, an increase of 11 percent over the same period last year. This is the highest 10-month total since the intifada began. In comparison, 435 people made aliya from the UK in 2004 and 402 in 2003.
Hilary Leila Krieger contributed to this report.
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