French Jews top table for emigration to Israel

So far this year the biggest number of Jews to emigrate to Israel from around the world have come from France. Even though the Jewish community in France is the third largest in the world, the figures come after a worrying spike in anti-Semitic attacks and abuse this year.

French Jews top table for emigration to Israel
France's Jews are leading the world in emigration to Israel this year. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

More Jews have left France for Israel so far this year than any from other country, a leading Jewish group said on Friday, blaming a "climate of anti-Semitism."

"France is today the leading country for Jewish emigration to Israel. It has never been before," said Ariel Kandel, head of the French office of the Jewish Agency for Israel.

Kandel cited figures from the Israeli integration minister showing that, as of August 31, 4,566 Jews had left France for Israel so far in 2014. 

This was ahead of Ukraine (3,252), Russia (2,632) and the United States (2,218).

"We will get close to 6,000 departures from France in 2014," added Kandel, adding that is about one percent of the total Jewish community in France, which is estimated to be around 500,000.

"In the Western or free world, we've never seen one percent of the Jewish community emigrating to Israel," he said.

He cited a "climate of anti-Semitism that is losing its taboo" as well as economic difficulties in France, which is suffering from zero growth and record high unemployment.

SEE ALSO: Jewish extremists clash with anti-Semitic mob in Paris

France saw a spike in anti-Semitic violence this summer that was spurred by Israel's bombing and ground offensive of the Gaza Strip.

A string of pro-Palestinian marches degenerated into riots, including vandalism, violence and looting in the Parisian suburb of Sarcelles, which is dubbed "Little Jerusalem" for its large Jewish population.

Despite the flare ups of anti-Jewish attacks this summer, a leading Jewish group told The Local that France is not an anti-Semitic country.

"I don't doubt that anti-Semitism exists in certain categories of the French population, and there is anti-Semitic violence in France, but France is not an anti-Semitic country," Marc Knobel, head of studies at France's Jewish umbrella organization CRIF said previously.

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