After a special aliyah (immigration) flight brought over 200 French Jews – half of whom were children – to Israel on Tuesday, Arutz Sheva was on scene as they received their teudot zehut identity cards in the coastal city of Netanya, which has a large French population.
One of the new olim (immigrants) who spoke to Arutz Sheva was Pardo Tayib, who explained, "I chose to make aliyah first of all for my children, out of love for Israel, and (because) in France we aren't finding our place."
He noted that rising French anti-Semitism was also a key factor, and added, "our message to the Jews: if you have the opportunity, make aliyah with joy!"
"I'm looking forward to a new life. It's still new so it's hard to know what will be long term. I hope to acclimatize, to adapt and to start a new life," said Tayib. "My family and I have a lot of motivation, a great hope to adapt, and also concerns because it's starting a new life, but also great excitement!"
That excitement was shared by Dov Gavizon, who said the decision to take "the big step" of aliyah had been brewing for a long time and was partly due to the worsening situation for Jews in France.
"The goal spiritually is to get closer to the religion, and also to be part of the development of Israel in all directions."
Explaining a unique advantage of making aliyah, he noted, "we have a child with special needs, and we didn't find any place for him (in France), but here we found a place that accepted him warmly."
In France, he described how security guards patrol in front of every Jewish school and synagogue, "and there are fears all the time," with parents concerned about letting their children go out "because of all the attacks that happened."
As for the decision to make landfall precisely in Netanya, he explained, "at the start we thought of settling in Jerusalem, but here we can find lots of French speakers even in the supermarket. Later maybe we will move to Jerusalem, but for the sake of our absorption it's better for us to start here, because there are French people in every corner."
"We of course will learn Hebrew at Ulpan (Hebrew school), that's the most important thing for adapting."
More than 20,000 French Jews, mostly young people and families, have made Israel their home over the past five years.
Over 7,200 French Jews made aliyah in 2014 – an all-time record, and the first time since Israel's establishment that more than 1% of a Western country's Jewish population immigrated to the country in a single year.
That trend appears likely to only continue growing, as data compiled by The Jewish Agency and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption reveals some 4,260 immigrants from France have arrived in Israel so far this year, an 11% increase compared to the 3,830 who came during the equivalent period in 2014.