Two special flights arrived at Israel’s Ben-Gurion Airport on Wednesday evening, filled with 430 French Jewish immigrants leaving Paris and its suburbs. The flights, organized by the Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, had mostly families, including 195 children and 18 babies.
Despite the security situation in Israel,
dozens of French Jews will be moving to the southern cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon. The rest will live in communities throughout the Jewish state, including 100 in Tel Aviv and 130 in Netanya.
On Thursday, the new Israelis received their Israeli ID cards in a festive ceremony in Jerusalem.
Not one new immigrant cancelled his or her arrival to Israel, despite the heavy rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, according to the Jewish Agency Chairman, Natan Sharansky, who was on hand to welcome the new immigrants along with Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver.
"France may not have won the World Cup, but you are champions when it comes to aliyah – immigration to Israel," Sharansky told the group on Wednesday.
"More than 1,000 new immigrants from around the world have arrived in Israel during Operation Protective Edge. Today, 430 of you came from France. Not a single one of these new immigrants canceled or postponed his or her arrival. Welcome to the family," said Sharansky.
The Jewish Agency expects more than 5,000 French Jews to immigrate to Israel by the end of the year. In the past three years, French Jewish immigration has increased dramatically. In 2013, 3,289 French Jews immigrated to Israel compared to 1,917 immigrants in 2012 – a 60% increase.
During the first six months of the year, 2,600 French Jews arrived in Israel in comparison to 812 during the equivalent period in 2012.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption and the Jewish Agency have developed special plans to encourage French aliyah and help French Jews acclimate into Israeli society.
The plans include efforts to strengthen Jewish identity amongst French Jewish youth, expand Israel experience programs, remove bureaucratic barriers to employment in Israel, and boost the number of Jewish Agency "shlichim" (representatives) in France.
"Two weeks ago, when we met in Paris at the moving ceremony during which you parted with the country of your birth, I met entire families whose veins flow with Zionism, who are willing to leave their entire lives behind in order to realize their dream of immigrating to Israel," said Minister Landver. "Every immigrant who arrives in Israel strengthens us as a people, and this is all the more so when it comes to the growing aliyah from France."
The Jewish community in France, the largest in Europe, has experienced growing hostility and violent attacks
over the last few years across the country.
Just this past Sunday, pro-Palestinian demonstrators tried to storm two Paris synagogues,
trapping 200 Jewish congregants in one synagogue while hurling objects and shouting anti-Semitic slogans during an anti-Israel demonstration that left three Jews injured.
Reprinted with permission from the Tazpit News Agency.