'Israel must balance encouraging French aliya with not wanting to be seen as dancing on blood’

“I really believe that anti-Semitism is not our ally, and we do not have to act as if it is,” Jewish Agency chairman Sharansky says.

January 11, 2015 13:22
3 minute read.
kosher supermarket in Paris

Police raid a kosher supermarket in Paris . (photo credit: COURTESY OF BFMTV)


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PARIS – Jerusalem must carefully calibrate its aliya message to French Jews: welcoming them, but on the other not seeming to be exploiting anti-Semitism, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky said Sunday on his way to Paris.

“We don’t have to say, ‘It is your obligation to leave immediately,’ ” Sharansky said en route to Paris on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s plane to take part in the massive anti-terrorism march there. “We have to say we will do our best so that they feel comfortable, and that Israel is a great place to live as Jews.”

Sharansky said it was “a mistake and not smart” to say to French Jews “immigrate now,” adding that this is also “insulting” to the French.

When Ariel Sharon made such a comment in 2003, it triggered a mini-crisis with then French president Jacques Chirac and Sharon was forced to backtrack.

“I really believe that anti-Semitism is not our ally, and we do not have to act as if it is,” Sharansky said.

As to what the message to France’s Jews should be, Sharansky said they are very concerned and looking into options.

“We need to say that if they want to be an active part of Jewish history, there is no better place than Israel.”

He also said Israel needs to send the message that it is cutting down on the bureaucracy and hurdles toward making aliya.

Even before last week’s attacks in Paris, Sharansky planned to travel there on Sunday to take part in a large aliya fair in Paris. He said while the attacks might encourage more people to take part in the fair, security fears may keep them from coming.

Sharansky said France in particular, and Europe in general, need to look at why its Jews want to leave.

One of the reasons, he said, has to do with Europe’s relations with Israel. If they want to keep the Jews from leaving, he said, that is one thing to keep in mind.

According to Sharansky, the number of French Jewish immigrants jumped from 1,800 in 2012 to 3,300 in 2013, to 7,000 last year. Before last week’s attacks, the projection for 2015 was some 10,000 olim, and now Sharansky says that number could reach 15,000 and beyond.

Sharansky said there are some 600,000 potential immigrants who could enter Israel under the Law of Return, which stipulates that having only one Jewish grandparent is necessary to automatically immigrate to Israel, and that some 500,000 of this group who are Jewish according to the halachic definition of having a Jewish mother.

He said the Jewish Agency increased the number of emissaries it has in France from 12 to 20 over the last year, and will decide soon whether to augment this number.

Sharansky also said that in his meetings with the heads of the Jewish communities he would urge them to invest more in security, and that the Jewish Agency would also contribute toward that goal.

After the attack in Toulouse in 2012, he said, the agency set up a fund for security and distributed millions of shekels.

He also said he would discuss with the leaders ways to keep the Jewish community there strong, saying he is very much a firm believer that aliya comes from strong communities.

For example, he concluded, ways have to be found to ensure that if 10 percent of the students in a Jewish school make aliya in one year, that school still has the wherewithall financially to continue.

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