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 Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Gay-marriage opponents are looking for ways to maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture, one writer says More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More