Bennett working on plan to bring 200,000 French Jews to Israel

“We missed an historic opportunity and many Jews moved to the US, Canada or other places instead of Israel,” Bennett said.

French olim arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport, July 10, 2017 (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
French olim arrive at Ben-Gurion Airport, July 10, 2017
Education and Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett, and National Economic Council chairman Avi Simhon will submit to the cabinet this Sunday an outline for its plans to increase immigration to Israel among French Jews.
This follows the Prime Minister’s instructions at last week’s meeting for Bennett to draft a comprehensive program in cooperation with the National Economic Council to achieve this goal.
As part of the proposed resolution, the government will approve the establishment of an inter-ministerial national task force to formulate a plan to be submitted within 60 days, to promote the immigration of Jews from France and better facilitate their absorption in Israel.
The team, headed by the Diaspora Affairs minister and the head of the National Economic Council, will include representatives of the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labor, Welfare and Social Services, the Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure, Ministry of Immigration and Absorption, the Ministry of Economy, and the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs.
Representatives of the Jewish Agency for Israel, the World Zionist Organization, KKL-JNF, and Qualita, the umbrella organization of the French Olim community in Israel will also participate in drafting the plan.
In last week’s cabinet meeting, Bennett highlighted the importance of immigration from France, and noted that a comprehensive survey of French Jewry in 2015 demonstrated that over 40% of French Jews – as many as 200,000 people – had said they were interested in varying degrees in immigrating to Israel.
“The Israeli government is taking a giant step in the right direction toward a historic move,” said Bennett on Wednesday.
“After years of overlooking the wonderful aliyah of French Jews, we will embrace them. Immigration to Israel does not end on the day of arrival. That is just the beginning. The state should assist in absorption in all areas – language, education, housing, employment and more. We will do it. Every Jew in France should know, as should Jews anywhere in the world, the State of Israel awaits them with open arms.”
Aliyah from France spiked in 2014 and 2015 following rising incidents of violent antisemitic attacks and terror incidents, peaking at almost 7,500 immigrants in 2015 from an average of 1,900 immigrants from 2010 to 2012.
Netanyahu told French Jews in Paris in 2015 that Israel was their home and that they would be warmly welcomed, and said that a special team of ministers would convene to formulate a plan to increase immigration from France.
It was thought that large numbers of French Jews would quickly make aliyah, but numbers tailed off quickly and just 2,300 are expected to come in 2018. Less than 18,000 immigrated since 2015.
Problems integrating into the country and finding work, especially having professional credentials recognized, are frequently cited as significant causes for why mass Jewish immigration from France did not transpire.