News / Europe

Bucking a Trend, French Jews Head to Israel

FILE - People walk in the street in the Marais Jewish quarter in Paris.
FILE - People walk in the street in the Marais Jewish quarter in Paris.
Lisa Bryant
Immigration to Israel has stagnated in recent years, but French Jews are bucking that trend. Last year nearly 3,300 Jews from France made their aliyah, or immigration to Israel, a 63 percent jump from 2012. The phenomenon is changing the face of Israeli immigration -- and France's own half-million-strong Jewish community.
 
By any standard, David Tibi is a French success story. The 44-year-old dentist and father of five has a thriving practice in Paris and a house in an affluent suburb nearby. His wife is a doctor and Tibi is a leading member of the Jewish community here.
 
Nonetheless, in early July the Tibi family will join the thousands of Jews who have been leaving France. Their house has been sold and a colleague will be handling the dental practice. The family is leaving on a one-way ticket to Israel.
 
Tibi believes that if his children are to fully live their religion, their future is in Israel, not France. He said many people in France's Jewish community feel the same way. There's a massive movement of Jews wanting to leave.
 
Experts have said a mix of factors is driving French Jews like Tibi to make their aliyah. Many have family there and already travel regularly to Israel for vacation and special occasions. The struggling economy and high taxes in France also play a role. Last month, French unemployment shot above 11 percent. By contrast, Israel's joblessness rate stands at about 6 percent.
 
Ariel Kandel, director of the Jewish Agency for Israel in France, cited growing anti-Semitism is another big reason.
 
Kandel said being a Jew in France is not easy these days, especially for those who exercise their faith in obvious ways, such as by wearing a kippah or Star of David.
 
A record 3,270 French Jews moved to Israel last year. Kandel believes those numbers could climb still further, to about 4,000 to 5,000 Jews a year. These days, Kandel said, it is becoming trendy to move to Israel.
 
France's roughly 500,000 Jews represent the largest such community in Europe. The park near Tibi's dental practice is packed after synagogue on Saturdays.  The neighborhood is full of kosher stores and butchers.
 
But Jews like Tibi have said they are seeing increasing manifestations of anti-Semitism - most recently in the discourse of a controversial French comic called Dieudonne.
 
Tibi said Dieudonne is not driving his family out of France; it's the general atmosphere, which the comic is mirroring. Anti-Semitic remarks, he says, are becoming almost banal.
 
Some Jews have been physically attacked. The most dramatic incident took place two years ago, when a gunman shot and killed three children and a teacher at a Jewish school in Toulouse. Two of Tibi's children were harassed in a tram.  Last month, the family filled out their papers to immigrate to Israel.
 
Tibi said his parents will be following. A cousin and friends are already living in Israel. The Tibis have found an apartment and schools for their kids in a Tel Aviv suburb that he says is home to many other French Jews.
 
These days, Tibi said, Israeli restaurants hand out menus written in French. The Israeli documents he fills out are in French. There have been waves of emigration from Ethiopia and Russia. Now, he said, it's the French aliyah.
 
Israel is facilitating the French migration in other ways. There are draft measures to recognize French diplomas and other qualifications, and programs encouraging young people to visit. Every week, about 300 people attend the Jewish Agency's informational meetings about Israel, director Kandel said.
 
Kandel said those numbers suggest that as many as 30,000 Jews in France are actively thinking about moving to Israel in the next two years. He said his agency isn't encouraging people to leave, but if Jewish families want to move to Israel, the state must help them do so.
 
Israel does not suit everyone. There are no statistics on Jews returning to France, but some have a hard time finding jobs and adjusting to their new home.
 
Mendel Azimov, a rabbi in Paris, said some Jews immigrate to Israel on a trial basis. He doesn't think the aliyah will make a dent on the Jewish community here.
 
"Some people make aliyah for [their] family and they stay [in Paris] and work. And they come every week, every two weeks for five days to work. Sunday afternoon the flight is full with people who come to Paris to work and Thursday night they go back to Israel for life for the weekend," said Azimov.
 
Still, other Jews strongly believe their roots remain in France. That is the case of Sacha Reingewirtz, president of the French Union of Jewish students.
 
"For a lot of people now, being connected to Israel and having a Zionist commitment just expresses itself in the fact of going to Israel on vacation. And it's a way of supporting the state. We haven't seen at all a mass exodus. Because the Jewish population has been in France of 2,000 years and there is definitely a future for the Jews in France," said Reingewirtz.
 
Tibi is not so sure. He predicts the exodus may reach up to 8,000 Jews a year, and said that the Jews who remain here will be those least attached to Israel and to Jewish life, or those who choose to stay and fight anti-Semitism.
 
Tibi has made his choice, but said he is leaving France with a heavy heart.

You May Like

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid