Shalom Life | January 11, 2015

Some 50,000 French Jews Contemplated Making Aliyah to Israel in 2014

Chairman of the Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky cited growing anti-Semitism, amongst other factors

By: Daniel Koren

Published: January 9th, 2015 in News » World

Some 50,000 French Jews Contemplated Making Aliyah to Israel in 2014

2014 was a banner year for anti-Semitism in France, the year of the quenelle, the year where an estimated 17,000 people marched down the streets of Paris chanting "Jews out of France," the year French pro-Palestinians attacked synagogues as a response to Operation Protective Edge, the year when three assailants broke into the home of a Jewish couple and raped a young 19-year-old woman.

It was also the year where aliyah to Israel from the country was unprecedented, though exact figures were never confirmed. Until now.

As reported by the Jerusalem Post, and just hours after a kosher synagogue in northeastern Paris was attacked by a radical Islamist terrorist, some 50,000 French Jews were interested in making aliyah in 2014. According to Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, "the overwhelming majority" of Jews (possibly up to 70%) in France expressed a desire, or at least displayed their curiosity, of leaving the European country - home to the largest Muslim and Jewish populations in Western Europe - for the Holy Land.

Sharansky added in his interview with the Post that while it may be hard for “Israelis to accept any compliment for themselves,” 2014 was indeed "the first year that there are more immigrants from the free world.”

After France, the largest delegation of immigrants to Israel in 2014 came from Ukraine.

Sharansky noted that anti-Semitism was the most significant factor of rising aliyah from France, though, given this week's tragedy, terrorism, regardless of if its directed at Jews, seems likely to be a significant factor as well.

“They have a choice, to stay in France, where there is the biggest welfare basket ever,” Sharansky said of France's Jews, or they could travel to Montreal or the EU. However, it seems the majority have chosen Israel.

“So [Theodor] Herzl was right, Israel will be a magnet,” he added.

“When the Jewish Agency emissaries ask them why they want to go to Israel, they say they want to live in a Jewish state. People don’t understand how the status of Israel is changing in the minds of people,” Sharansky continued.

“Here you have for the first time, a clear thing,” he said. “There is a massive exodus from a community in the free world, which has all the doors open to them, and they are choosing Israel,” as opposed to the United States or Canada, for example.

Sharansky added that of approximately 600,000 French Jews, "hundreds of thousands" of them are currently contemplating aliyah.

In 2014, immigration to the Holy Land increased by a whopping 32%.

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