Some new Israelis said they decided to make aliya because of rising anti-Semitism in France, but the new immigrants arrived in Israel to some encouraging news from the old country: Anti-Semitic attacks in France dropped by 48 percent in the first half of 2005.
The newcomers were greeted by representatives of the ministry of absorption, the Jewish Agency, and “Ami,” an organization that encourages and supports French aliya.
Corinne and Patrick Ben-Hayoun decided to immigrate with their two children because of the treatment they received as Jews but said their son really pushed to make aliya.
“A year ago, we came for a visit, and my 16-year-old son Benny refused to return to France,” said Corinne. “We told him to come home with us for a year and let us make plans, so we could come back properly. And that’s just what we did.”
Corinne lays out another reason the family moved to Israel: “My husband was a taxi driver, and the way he was treated was simply degrading. After every terrorist attack in Israel, people would blame him for what Israel is doing to the Palestinians.
“Once, Sharon said on TV that all French Jews should move to Israel, and the next day a work colleague asked when he was leaving France for Israel.
“There’s a lot of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in France,” she said. “At work, they told my husband Israel doesn’t belong to Jews. We know it will be hard here, but we’ll get by.”
Curses on the train
18-year-olds Aviva Atias and Nehama Ben-Ayash came by themselves to join family members who made aliya in recent years, and plan to join the army.
They also talk about anti-Semitism on the French street.
“When I would walk in the street with a star of David around my neck, people would curse me,” said Atias.
Ben Ayash said, “I have a very ‘Jewish’ face, so I can’t really hide it. Yesterday, an Arab asked me on the street where I was from, and when I said I was Jewish and moving to Israel, he said Israelis were crazy, wanted to kill all the Arabs and to rule the world."
God gave the land
Not everyone agreed with the sentiments, however. One man from Marseilles said he worked in an Arab neighborhood with a kipa on his head and was treated well by the locals.
He said he came to Israel because God told Abraham to go to Israel.
“The Holy One, blessed be he, told Abraham to go to Israel,” he said.
He said there are no real problems in France, but it’s better to come to Israel now, before its too late.
Dancing with the Torah
Upon arriving, immigrants began dancing with Torah scrolls brought from France by about nine families of Marseilles.
The families will move to the Har Homa section of Jerusalem, and intend to establish a French-speaking community there.