Increase in French Jews Immigrating to Israel Prompts Questions of Cause

July 4, 2004

Source: The New York Times

On July 4, 2004 The New York Times reported, "More French Jews have been immigrating to Israel or buying properties here as potential havens, and the Israelis and the French are debating whether the trend is a result of a surge in anti-Semitic attacks in France or just a cyclical oddity. The Jewish Agency, the quasi-governmental body responsible for settling immigrants, reported a doubling in the number of French Jews who arrived last year and in 2002, to more than 2,000 each year, compared with about 1,000 a year in the previous three years. By contrast, worldwide immigration to Israel has sharply declined during the Arab-Israeli violence. Michael Jankelowitz, a spokesman for the Jewish Agency, said that as a result of attacks against Jews in France in the past three years, many Jews, particularly those whose religion is evident from their clothes, were feeling increasingly uneasy. Much of the tension has centered in working-class suburbs of Paris where Jews and Muslims mingle...Some Jewish leaders in France contend that the Jewish Agency has sent squads of "emissaries" to recruit Jews for aliyah, or the return to Israel. The agency denied the charge, saying that it has the same staff of eight recruiters and that they merely try to persuade Jews thinking of emigrating to the United States or Canada to consider Israel instead. France has 500,000 to 600,000 Jews, the largest population in Europe. Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to Israel, played down the influx, suggesting in an interview that emigration is cyclical."