MembersHow Attractive is Israel to Disenfranchised French Jews?

In 2016, some 1,639 French Jews relocated to Israel, raising concerns in Paris that the Jewish population of France might eventually disappear.

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The arrival of more than 200 French Jews who made aliyah, at Ben Gurion International Airport on July 20, 2016. The flight was organized by The Jewish Agency for Israel, in partnership with the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, and Keren Hayesod-UIA. Photo by FLASH90 Photo: Flash90

“We came here because we belong here. We have always been Zionists,” said Johana Ben Israel, a 30-year-old Parisian who made aliyah not long ago, one of many to do so.

The previous year, following terrorist attacks in Paris, some of which targeted Jewish establishments, more than 7,000 French Jews left the country hoping to find safe haven in Israel.

Hoping to stem the tide, Prime Minister Manuel Valls pleaded with French Jewry, insisting that their departure would forever change France.

“They are terrified of the growing number of Muslims – almost 8 percent of the country’s population – and are aware of the fact that if Jews – who number half-a-million people – are gone, the French might be left to face a growing Muslim challenge alone,” said Sarah Feinberg, an expert on French Jewry at Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies.

Jewish contributions to French culture can not be overstated. Since the French Revolution, Jews have played a pivotal role in shaping the state’s political, cultural and social life. They...

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