Jewish emigration from France is continuing apace as anti-Semitism takes hold, with 2016 expected to once again show an increase in the number of French Jews moving to Israel. A rise in anti-Semitic attacks in the country, some of which have seen Jews murdered, coupled with the creeping Islamisation of France, is thought to be fuelling the trend.
Until 2012, the number of Jews making Aliyah (emigrating) to Israel had remained approximately steady at about 1,500 a year. But the shooting dead of three French soldiers followed by the killing of a teacher and three children from the Ozar Hatorah Jewish day school in Toulouse that year marked a watershed moment for France, as wave after wave of terrorist attacks have been paired with assaults upon the Jewish community since then.
Consequently, when Tsion Sylvain Saadoun, a teacher at a Jewish school in Marseilles was stabbed by three ISIS supporters as he walked outside his home, one of his attackers showed him a picture of Mohammed Merah, the perpetrator of the Toulouse shooting, on his phone. His attackers struck just days after the Paris attacks which took the lives of 130 people.
Similarly, the terrorists who targeted the Charlie Hebdo offices in January 2015 also paired their murderous rampage with an assault on a Jewish supermarket which left four dead.
“Anti-Semitism is a core tenet of Islamic extremist ideology, so attacks on Jews by ISIS sympathizers should come as no surprise,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
Unsurprisingly, since 2012 Jews have been departing France in ever greater numbers. Last year, 7,900 French Jews headed to Israel to start new lives. That number is expected to be topped in 2016.
“It’s a deep, powerful trend of increase compared to what we considered the natural annual rate, of about 1,500, before 2012,” Daniel Benhaim, head of the French Jewish Agency, which organizes moves to Israel told Politico. “There is a snowball effect: The more Jews leave, the more others see their friends and neighbors leaving and think, ‘Why not us?’”
“There is an identity crisis in France, with people feeling the country’s Judeo-Christian identity is being threatened, which pushes people to go,” Benhaim said. “There is also a security crisis, which has everything to do with people’s feelings of their own security and not necessarily the reality.”
And the departures for Israel may represent the tip of the iceberg – no one knows how many French Jews are leaving for the comparative safety of the US, or even across the Channel to the UK.
“Those who were able to leave, younger people who can build a new life in Israel, viewed the Toulouse massacre as a sign. It encouraged those who were already considering the possibility of Aliya to take that step. But for others, our lives are here. This is our country,” Jacques, a Parisian shop owner told the Jerusalem Post.
How much longer their country will welcome its French Jews remains to be seen, as the presence of anti-Semitic Muslim gangs grows. France’s approximately 500,000 Jews represent less than 1 percent of the country’s population, yet in 2014, according to the French Interior Ministry, 51 percent of all racist attacks targeted Jews, many perpetrated by Muslims.
Last October the left-wing French playwright Christine Angot wrote in Le Monde about her recent experiences filming a TV play in her home town of Chateauroux, in central France.
“When we arrived—all of us, the TV crew complete with their cameras and sound booms, and the writer who grew up there—we had to account for ourselves, to show our identity cards, to prove who we were, to state exactly where I had lived,” she recounted.
“And then, the director’s first name—David, his full name being David Teboul—supplied material for unsavory jokes.
“Some of the locals tried to intimidate us, saying that television was a cartel of the Jews. All this was uttered in a very menacing tone.
“We shot a few scenes under a running fire of jibes and jeering, and as we left we were told to pay our compliments to the Talmud. I swear we felt most uncomfortable.”