The first batch of thousands of French Jews expected to move to Israel this summer arrived in Ben Gurion International Airport Monday, as France'e Jewish community continues to struggle with rising anti-Semitism and a growing threat from Islamist terrorism in particular.
Some 130 olim, including 46 children and two babies, landed at Ben-Gurion Airport yesterday, while an additional 80 French Jews who had been in Israel on tourist visas became Israeli citizens and received their Israeli identity cards during a ceremony hosted by The Jewish Agency for Israel at the organization's Jerusalem headquarters building earlier today (Tuesday).
According to data compiled by The Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, more than 3,000 French Jews will immigrate to Israel this summer, including many young families whose children will enter Israeli schools at the start of the new school year.
Some 400 French Jewish immigrants are expected to arrive by the end of this week alone.
The current wave of French Aliyah comes in the midst of a joint effort by the Ministry and The Jewish Agency to maintain the high rate of immigration from France and increase Aliyah from around the world. Aliyah from France has risen steeply in recent years and France has become the number one source of immigration to Israel for the first time.
Last year close to 7,000 French Jews – more than 1% of the entire community – moved to Israel, and the Jewish Agency and Israeli government are predicting an even greater number in 2015.
On Friday, following the gruesome terrorist attack in Lyon in which a man was decapitated, Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Ze'ev Elkin called on French Jews to immigrate to Israel.
Speaking Tuesday, he reiterated that message.
"We welcome the immigrants who arrived in Israel last night. Every plane that arrives in Israel strengthens Israel and strengthens the French Jews who have come home," Elkin said.
"As anti-Semitism increases, terrorism surges, and sick ISIS operatives carry out murders In broad daylight, Jews around the world know that they have a country and a family to return to. We welcome you with open arms. According to all forecasts, this is just the beginning of an unprecedented wave of Aliyah from France, and I am very pleased that the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption offices at Ben-Gurion Airport will be working overtime this summer."
Jewish Agency data shows that French Jews' interest in immigrating to Israel remains strong and is reflected in increasing numbers of French Jews participating in Aliyah information sessions across France, contacting Jewish Agency offices for information, and beginning the formal Aliyah process.
"Over the past two years, The Jewish Agency for Israel has increased its activities in Europe in response to European Jews' growing interest in Aliyah," said Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky, who attended today's ceremony and presented new French Jewish immigrants with their Israeli identity cards.
"We are seeing an unprecedented wave of Aliyah from European countries, which indicates not only how Europe is becoming an uncomfortable place for Jews, but – even more importantly – the extent to which Israel is becoming a magnet for Jews interested in a meaningful Jewish life, in freedom, personal security, and a sense of belonging to a country that is integral to the future of the Jewish people."