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Number of French Jews leaving for Israel soars

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Number of French Jews leaving for Israel soars
The number of French Jews moving to Israel has increased dramatically in 2013, new figures show. File photo: The Jewish Agency for Israel
13:48 CET+01:00
The number of French Jews moving to Israel has rocketed in 2013 while at the same time the number of Jews from North America taking the same step has dropped by eight percent, new figures show. A weak French economy, a rise in anti-Semitism, and faith, are believed to be the reasons behind the hike.

The number of French Jews emigrating from France to Israel has shot up by almost 50 percent in 2013 compared to 2012, according to new statistics published this week.

The latest Jewish Agency report  figures show a 49-percent increase in French Jews making what is known as "aliyah" (immigration of Jews to Israel) in the first nine months of 2013, compared to the same period in 2012.

According to the survey results, 2,185 French Jews emigrated to Israel between January and September 2013, compared to 1,469 during the same time span in 2012. The total number of French people who emigrated to Israel in 2012 was 1,907.

Under the longstanding Law of Return, all Jews outside Israel have the right to immigrate there, and will be granted Israeli nationality.

Interestingly, the report showed an eight-percent decrease in Jewish emigration from North America to Israel during the same nine-month period. There were 2,524 new arrivals in 2013 from North America compared to the 2,737 who came between January and September 2012.

But why has there been such an increase in the number of French Jews heading to Israel?

A worrying report published in February claimed there had been an 82 percent increase in anti-Semitic attacks, both physical and verbal, in France in 2012. 

Whilst in November 2013, a survey from the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency reported that a third of Jews living in Europe did not feel safe in their own countries.

This rise in anti-Semitic incidents in France was put forward by the Jerusalem Post newspaper as a reason for the rise in the number of French Jews leaving for Israel.

But David Parsons, media director at the International Christian Embassy, a partner of the Jewish Agency, told The Local that the reasons for upping sticks and moving to Israel had more to do with finance and faith, than fear.

“Since the economic crisis a lot of French Jews have made aliyah because Israel has recovered more quickly from the economic downturn and unemployment rates there are much lower among the younger generation," Parsons said. 

"I asked some people making aliyah their reasons for moving to Israel and they seemed very upbeat.

"They didn’t cite anti-Semitism. They just felt it was time to come to the homeland. They identified with the Jewish people and the Jewish state. Some had relatives here.

"Their reasons were linked to faith and community more than anything else.”

But Parsons accepted that the impact of the 2012 Toulouse school shooting, in which three Jewish pupils and a Rabbi were gunned down by Al-Qaeda inspired gunman Mohamed Merah could not be discounted.

by Naomi Firsht

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