80% of French Jews considering aliyah
Dr. Michael Bensaadon, director of the “Klita” umbrella organization for NGOs working to help French Jews immigrate to Israel, is calling on the government of Israel to prepare for a massive wave of aliyah from France following the Paris attacks on Saturday.
The upcoming escalation in aliyah can be predicted from the rise in immigration seen until now and the deteriorating situation in France, as well as from telling opinion polls among French Jewry.
No less than 7,000 French immigrants arrived in 2014, and “this wave will yet strengthen” he says, noting on the number of requests to make aliyah being received.
Polls in the French Jewish community show that approximately 80% are considering making aliyah to Israel. While not all will likely actually take the step, the number signifies a massive shift in consciousness and portends a huge increase in immigration.
There are around half a million Jews in France now, notes Bensaadon. He explained that another million or so who are not Jewish according to Jewish law are extended the right to make aliyah given the presence of a Jewish grandparent or spouse, but this group is not figured into the poll and also does not intend to leave France.
Bensaadon argued that France has a negative atmosphere which is sending youngsters abroad – and not just Jews. This atmosphere is created by the weak financial situation and an identity crisis, and for Jews the growing anti-Semitism they are faced with on the streets just increases the desire to leave.
Let the absorption do the talking
Israel is the prime option for many, he says, but without a proper infrastructure to aid their absorption, they may turn to other options such as Canada and the US.
Bensaadon’s organization is working together with the Jewish Agency and Nefesh B’Nefesh on a report detailing the needs of French immigrants, prime among them education, employment and degree recognition.
“We’ve gotten lots of promises and we hear the Israeli government call on Jews to come home to Israel, but we don’t see definite steps,” he warned.
He noted on the education model tested in Netanya where many French olim live, citing possible educational programs that can aid immigrant absorption. Likewise he called to improve the process in the Health Ministry to have the degrees of French doctors be more easily and quickly recognized.
Bensaadon explained that now, after the Islamic State (ISIS) attack in Paris, is not the right timing to make a public call for French aliyah given that doing so might be seen as insensitive and could harm relations with France. However, he said that rather than a public call, improving the process of absorption is in fact a more effective way of encouraging aliyah, given that word will reach back to France.
“The Jewish community in France is very Zionist, but it wants a successful absorption in terms of education and employment, and those who want more olim need to make sure there is quality absorption.”