Ed Driscoll

Le Exodus

There are some amazing statistics in this Jerusalem Post article:

Since the intifada broke out six years ago, the number of French Jews making aliya to Israel has tripled – from about 1,000 a year before the violence began to 3,000 a year now, the highest figure since the Six Day War. Another 20,000 or so French Jews have made the final decision to immigrate to Israel, and are expected to arrive here in the coming years, said Zana, citing polls conducted for the organization three years ago. France is home to 600,000 Jews, by far Europe’s largest Jewish community.
“You can assume that more people are making the decision [to immigrate to Israel] as time goes on,” Zana added.

They’ve made their presence felt in Ashdod’s City and Yud Bet neighborhoods, in Jerusalem’s Har Homa neighborhood, in Netanya and Ramat Beit Shemesh. Most are families headed by young professionals and businesspeople, while the older, richer French immigrants buy in Jerusalem’s German Colony, Herzliya Pituah and Caesarea, and often divide their time between Israel and France. Some 80% of them are religiously observant, and at least that high a percentage are of North African background.

They are heartfelt Zionists, and typically thought of moving to Israel since their youth. But it was the growth of the Muslim population in France, combined with the rise of Islamic fanaticism among that country’s Muslims and the anti-Semitism that intensified with the intifada, that changed aliya from being a radical proposal among French Jews to being a legitimate, even logical one.

Yosef Ben-Zion, 60, who left the largely-Muslim Parisian suburb of Noisy de Sec two years ago and who now lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh with his wife and two children, said, “I started to feel that there was a real problem about 10 years ago. I started hearing the Muslim youth say ‘sale Juif’ as I was on my way to the synagogue. They used to throw rocks over the wall into the synagogue garden, and the police did nothing about it.”

The problems in Noisy de Sec didn’t begin a year ago with the riots and car-torchings that engulfed the country; Ben-Zion’s wife, Simcha, 50, recalls that in the years before they left the suburb, Muslim firebrands “would start preaching in the street – ‘Beware of the modern ways, beware of the influence of the Jews.'”

* * *

IN HIS Jerusalem office, Zana explains that because of such communal memories as the Dreyfus Affair and the Vichy government of World War II – in which some 80,000 French Jews, or one-third of the community, were killed – the self-identifying Jews of France feel somewhat insecure, and traditionally have been reluctant to express opinions that might cast doubt on their national loyalty – such as the desire to immigrate to Israel.

“France is not like America,” he noted. “To love Israel is okay, but to leave France for Israel is politically incorrect.”

But between the rise in the Muslim population – now six million out of 60 million French citizens – the outbreak of Muslim animosity against Jews during the intifada, and the increasing religiosity and “communitarism and ghettoization,” as Zana put it, of French Jews of North African background, aliya is no longer a taboo subject. “A growing number of people don’t want to take a chance on what France is going to be like in another 20 years,” he said.

Can’t say I blame them.

(Via The Brothers Judd.)

Update: Things aren’t all that rosy on the other side of the Channel, of course.