PARIS - About 6,500 Jews have made aliya from France so far this year. According to projections, some 8,000 Jews will have immigrated to Israel from France by the end of 2015, Jewish Agency spokesman Yigal Palmor says.
“We have noted a steady increase of about 10 percent this year compared to 2014, when 7,200 French Jews arrived. This increase continues the trend of recent years, so we don’t see a specific peak in the number of French immigrants,” he added.
Palmor’s words echo sentiments expressed by local Jews. They explain to The Jerusalem Post
that it was the tragedy of Toulouse in 2012 that changed the tone, as far as French Jews were concerned, and encouraged young families and single young people to leave the country.
“Those who were able to leave, younger people who can build a new life in Israel, viewed the Toulouse massacre as a sign. It encouraged those who were already considering the possibility of aliya to take that step. But for others, our lives are here. This is our country,” says Jacques, a Parisian shop owner.
Indeed, following the attack on the Jewish community center in Copenhagen last February, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls called upon French Jews to stay in the country, and not leave for Israel, as suggested by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “My message to French Jews is the following: France is wounded [along] with you and France does not want you to leave.”
It seems that Valls’s call did not fall on deaf ears. And while the number of Jews leaving to Israel grows steadily, many of them emphasize that they still feel French and love their homeland. National emblems such as the French flag and the presence of representatives from all spheres of French life, be it political, religious or military, at the memorial ceremony held last night at the Paris Central Synagogue, reflected well these sentiments of belonging.
Jewish French Students’ Union (UEJF) president Sacha Reingewirtz told the Post
that Jewish youth are first and foremost preoccupied now by personal security questions. “The priority now is to examine how we can protect ourselves here.
How we protect our way of life, the French way of life, which we cherish so; the fact that we can go anywhere we please; eat whatever we want; listen to the music we like. This is about spending evenings in cafes and restaurants the way people do in Paris. All this, without giving in to terror or to fear.”
When asked about French young people immigrating to Israel, Reingewirtz says that this is an ongoing debate among Jews his age, and an option which quite many opt for. Still, he feels that Friday’s attacks did not bring any new elements to this discussion.
“This is a moment of national solidarity. It is important for us to show that we are all in this together; defending the French way of living. That we resist terror.”
Reingewirtz recounts that the UEJF held its national convention this weekend in Strasbourg, dedicating it to the memory of the Paris victims. He notes that the participants discussed issues such as the battle against anti-Semitism, preserving the memory of the Holocaust and fighting anti-Zionism.
But more than that, the convention reflected a spirit of national solidarity against exclusion, racism or extreme Islam. “The imam of the Great Strasbourg Mosque took part in our conference. So did representatives of many anti-racism NGOs, such as the president of SOS racism, Dominique Sopo. We are collaborating with all those who champion moderation and tolerance,” he added.
Roger Cukierman, the president of French Jewry’s representative council, CRIF, told the Post that today, all French Jews feel like every other French citizen, sharing the national grief; sharing the feelings of people in all Western countries that object to the implementation of the Shari’a laws.
“I don’t think that things have changed in respect to the issue of immigrating to Israel,” he notes.
“When parents bring their children to a school which is protected by the army, they wonder if their child has a future here. There is a question mark. There are clearly those who answered this question by leaving. Others clearly answered by staying here, by emphasizing their attachment to France, to its culture and its language.”