When nearly 75 percent of French Jews reported they were considering emigration earlier this spring, they weren’t kidding. More than 400 French Jews arrived in Israel today, a group that included mostly young families from Paris and its suburbs, with almost 200 children making the trip.
The climate in France, particularly in Paris, has been intensifying recently, with attacks on Jewish citizens becoming a frequent occurrence—just this week a Jewish teenage girl was pepper sprayed in the face—and anti-Israel protests becoming increasingly violent. (You can read the first of Tablet’s five-part series on toxic hate in France here.)
There was a 62 percent increase in French rates of immigration to Israel in 2013—3,289 French Jews made aliyah, up from 1,917 the year before—and according to the Jewish Agency for Israel, which organizes these mass aliyah trips, those numbers are liking to keep increasing. They’re expecting 5,000 olim, or Jewish immigrants to Israel, this year.
What exactly are they leaving behind? Well, during one week in June, a Jewish teenager wearing a yarmulke and tzitzit was attacked with an electric Taser by a group of teens; two similarly-attired teens were chased by a man with an ax; and another two teens were sprayed with tear gas.
In May, a Jewish woman with a baby was attacked at a Paris bus station by a man who shouted “Dirty Jewess” at her. In March, a Jewish teacher leaving a kosher restaurant in Paris had his nose broken and a swastika drawn on his chest; an Israeli man was attacked with a stun gun outside a Paris synagogue; and a Jewish man was beaten on the Paris metro to chants of “Jew, we are going to lay into you, you have no country.” In January, anti-government demonstrators shouted “Jew, France is Not Yours” as they marched through the streets of Paris.
It’s not so hard to see why they left.
Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.