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

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs