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

Video On The Scene: In Ethiopia, 'Are You a Journalist?' Is a Loaded Question

VOA's Anita Powell describes the difficulties faced by reporters in fully conveying the story in a country where people are reticent to share their true opinions More

Nigerians Await New President With High Hopes

When pomp and circumstance of inauguration end in Abuja, Buhari will sit down to the hard task of governing Nigeria More

India's Restrictions on Several NGOs Raise Concerns

Political analysts link recent clampdown on advocacy groups to report last year that said foreign-funded NGO’s negatively impact economic development More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Expelled from Pakistan, Afghan Refugees Return to Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs