Potential French olim at aliya fair in Jerusalem, March 11, 2015.
(photo credit: SAM SOKOL)
Hundreds of young French Masa participants gathered at the Jerusalem Theater Wednesday evening to learn about their options should they choose to immigrate.
According to the Jewish Agency and the Immigration and Absorption Ministry, 1,000 people were slated to attend the event.
France became the leading source of immigrants for the first time in 2014 with almost 7,000 new arrivals, double the number from 2013, according to the agency. Despite last summer’s war with Gaza and attendant missile fire on Israeli cities, French Jews continued to stream here over the summer, fleeing rising anti-Semitism and economic malaise.
In a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post, agency chairman Natan Sharansky said that some 50,000 French Jews inquired regarding aliya last year, and the agency is holding two information seminars a day in France, whereas a year ago it held only one a month.
At the theater young men and women mingled in front of tables staffed by representatives of the IDF, national service organizations and academic institutions, as well as experts from the ministry and the agency, explaining the various aliya tracks available to them.
“I am coming on aliya at the end of the year,” Rivkah Ehrman, an 18-year-old from the Strasbourg area told Post.
“I love Israel, it’s our land and it’s not so good in France,” she said, referencing the rising anti-Semitism plaguing the country.
Most of those present will likely end up making the move, said Patrick Ferdman, an agency emissary present at the event.
Most people from France, Belgium and Switzerland who complete the Masa program make aliya immediately, he stated, adding that “most say they won’t go back and will open their [aliya file] here.”
Haim Sultan, a 19-year-old immigrant from Paris attending the event with friends, agreed.
“Most of the people here will come,” he guessed.
The ministry “is constantly working to adapt the [immigration] services to the needs of immigrants and provide quick, professional response for French Jews who wish to immigrate to Israel,” Immigration and Absorption Minister Sofa Landver, who had to cancel her appearance at the event at the last moment, told the Post through a spokesman.
Citing French anti-Semitism, Landver said that it is imperative to “invest all our might to strengthen the system of immigration encouragement and absorption,” of which Masa is an important component, she said.
In February the cabinet approved a NIS 180 million immigration plan – aimed at French, Belgian and Ukrainian Jews – focused on aliya promotion, “strengthening and adapting absorption processes” and special assistance for immigrants from “emergency areas.”
Among the provisions of the new plan are moves to promote Hebrew language instruction among prospective immigrants, raising the number of immigration fairs and increasing the number of immigration emissaries to speed up the immigration process. Seminars in the fields of housing, health, social welfare, education and employment will be held to provide more information than is traditionally available to newcomers.
Aside from strengthening traditional promotional tactics, the initiative will also provide for counseling on “personally adapted absorption tracks” for people in various fields looking to find work in, or move businesses to, the Jewish state.
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