A recent article in Newsweek explores the increasing numbers of French Jews making aliyah (immigrating to Israel) – and included thoughts from Rabbi Eckstein about this rise as well as The Fellowship’s role in helping the French Jewish community move to their spiritual homeland.
According to Israeli government figures, 7,469 French immigrants made aliyah (moved to Israel) in 2015. That number is up from 6,658 in 2014 and 3,263 in 2013. A decade ago, the number was 2,948. For the past two years, the French have been the largest immigrant group arriving in Israel, overtaking Russians and Ukrainians.
“What we are witnessing, in my opinion, is a whole shift in history,” says Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), which helps people immigrate to Israel. Previously, Jews emigrated from Eastern Europe, North Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East, he says. “Now we’re seeing waves from Western Europe, which we never thought we’d see—France, Belgium and I predict it’s going to be others.”
Why the sharp increase in aliyah from France? The article offers a few thoughts.
News accounts have tied the so-called exodus from France to anti-Semitism. France has the largest population of Jews in Europe, but recent events there have left many Jews afraid: the 2006 abduction and killing of Ilan Halimi; the 2012 murders of a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school; the 2015 Paris attacks, including the killing of four Jews at a kosher market; and since October, attacks in Marseille on two Jewish teachers, a rabbi and two Jewish worshippers.
The Jewish Community Security Service, a not-for-profit, says there were 808 reported anti-Semitic incidents in France in 2015, nearly twice the number reported just two years earlier. In January, the nonprofit Human Rights First said, “An increasing number of Jews are relocating in or outside of France for security reasons.”