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Anti-Semitism Driving French Jewish Migration to Israel

New French Jewish immigrants become Israeli citizens at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. (Photo: JAFI Israel)

New French Jewish immigrants become Israeli citizens at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. (Photo: JAFI Israel)

Citing rising anti-Semitism in their homeland, an increasing number of French Jews are packing up and leaving for Israel.

While overall immigration to Israel has slowed over the past decade, France has bucked this trend, with 3,270 French Jews making the aliyah, or migration, to Israel in 2013. That’s a 63 percent increase from 2012. It’s also a far larger number, percentage-wise, than the 3,070 Jews who emigrated from the United States.

French Jews migrating to Israel give several reasons for leaving their homeland. Love of Israel and a weak French economy are major factors. But increasingly, anti-Semitism is also cited.

“My son is always asking me why there are police in front of his Jewish school, why we need to be searched each time we go to the synagogue,” 44-year-old dentist David Tibi, who lives with his wife and five children in the Parisian suburb of Vincennes, told the Huffington Post. “We are raising our children to live with this fear.”

It’s not just big, headline-grabbing anti-Semitic crimes like the deadly March 2012 shooting attack at a Toulouse Jewish school that worry French Jews. Critics claim there is a subtle, everyday anti-Semitism that pervades French culture and is manifested in various forms, like a recent campaign by popular comedian Dieudonné in which fans were asked to send ‘selfies’ in which they perform the ‘quenelle salute,’ a backwards Nazi salute, near Jewish people or establishments.

Tibi says two of his children were recently taunted as they rode a tram, prompting him to hasten his plans to leave for Israel.

The Mardoukh family recently emigrated from Toulouse to Netanya, Israel.

“You can understand why we came here,” father Laurent told the Washington Post. The oldest of his three sons was attending the Ozar Hatorah school in Toulouse when radical Islamic gunmen killed four people– a rabbi and three students– there on March 19, 2012.

“Now I prefer to live in peace and quiet in Israel surrounded by all of the craziness of the region, than in France, which is not as quiet as it seems,” said Mardoukh.

The Israeli government has taken steps to make it easier for French Jews to make their aliyah, announcing a three-year plan that has begun with the recognition of French diplomas for medical and tax professionals. The Israeli Ministry of Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs also plans to offer special assistance with job placement, housing, and education for French Jews.

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