|Haganah: "It All Depends |
On You" (1947)
But the crowd in the office last week is not in the mood for jokes. Many are moving imminently and have pressing questions about the validity of their Jewish marriage contract and Israeli taxes on their cars. Others still harbor resentment over a perceived lack of security for French Jews that ultimately has led them to see safe harbor in the Jewish state.
Their stories paint a portrait of a community rich with educated professionals who are finding it increasingly hard to envision a future here amid rising anti-Semitism and a stagnant economy. Some profess a deep desire to become part of Israel’s vibrant society and economy.
Looming in the background is what many Jews here refer to simply as “Toulouse,” the 2012 slaying of three children and a rabbi by an Islamist at a Jewish school in the southeastern city. Many of France’s estimated 600,000 Jews, the third-largest Jewish community in the world, live in the shadow of the attack. “Since Toulouse, my family and I worry every day that my grandchildren go to school,” says Menache Manet, a 64-year-old Parisian who will be leaving for Israel in several weeks with his son and four grandchildren. “I grew up in a civilized country,” he adds, his voice trembling with anger. “Nowadays, I take off my kippah on my way to synagogue.”
According to a European Union survey of nearly 6,000 Jews from nine countries released last month, France ranked second only to Hungary in the number of Jews contemplating emigration because of anti-Semitism, with a staggering 46 percent of 1,137 French Jews polled. France also was second in the number of Jews who feared self-identifying as such in public, with 29 percent.
The figures correlate with an explosion in anti-Semitic attacks registered last year: A total of 614 recorded incidents that constituted a 58 percent increase from 2011. Some 40 percent of the increase happened within 10 days of Toulouse. [...]
The latest surge began last year and caught the Jewish Agency by surprise, says Kandel, himself a French Jew who made aliyah when he was 17. In 2012, his office handled a few dozen applicant interviews each month. In November, it handled about 500. [...]
In parallel, French participation in Israel’s Masa program, which sends Jewish students to study in Israel for periods of up to a year, rose by 25 percent in 2013, from 750 last year. Kandel says 70 percent of French participants make aliyah within months of finishing the program, compared to less than half of American participants.
“I’ve been cursed at at the metro a few times because I wear a kippah, but so what,” says Olivier Cohen, a university graduate in his 20s who wants to move to Israel. “Look around , there is no movement, no prospects, no jobs. I want to go a dynamic environment.” To Cohen, life in Paris provides a stark contrast with Israel, where despite lower median incomes than in France, the projected economic growth rate of 3.8 percent is more than triple the average among countries in the Organization for Cooperation and Economic Development, according to OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria. Suite.