Monday, August 3, 2015

France: At Netanya, on Israel’s coast, a French ‘bubble’ rises

The Times of Israel reports:

In this photo taken Wednesday, July 29, 2015, a French immigrant to Israel receives her Israeli ID during a ceremony in the coastal city of Netanya central Israel. (AP Photo/Sebastian Scheiner)
The coastal city of Netanya markets itself as the “Israeli Riviera” and walking along its main pedestrian boulevard, one would be hard-pressed to tell it apart from its twin city of Nice. Barely a word of Hebrew is spoken, and real estate ads, restaurant menus and cafe conversations are mostly in French.

An increase in anti-Semitic attacks by Muslim extremists in France, home to the world’s third-largest Jewish population, has spawned an unprecedented wave of immigration to Israel. Netanya, with its seaside chic and established French-speaking community, has become their top destination. 

Last year, for the first time, France was Israel’s top source of immigrants, according to the Jewish Agency, a nonprofit group that works closely with the government and acts as a link for Jews around the world. A record 7,200 French Jews arrived in 2014, double the number from the previous year. Of those, about 2,000 came to Netanya, a Mediterranean city whose beaches remind many new arrivals of their Moroccan, Tunisian or Algerian origins.

The surge, which marked the first time in Israeli history that more than 1 percent of a Western country’s Jewish population immigrated in a single year, came even before the shooting rampage that killed four Jews in a Paris kosher supermarket in January and devastated the community’s already shaky sense of security.

For Fanny Rhoum, a 33-year-old mother of two whose children went to school across from the Hyper Cacher, the supermarket where the attack happened, that was the tipping point. Three days after the attack, she came to Israel to start planning her move.  

“We had become paranoid … every event brought our departure closer,” she said Wednesday upon receiving her Israeli ID card in Netanya, just two days after arriving on a special flight from Paris with another 200 immigrants.

“Here we get the feeling that we can protect ourselves. There we have the impression that we are on our own and if, God forbid, something happens we will have to manage.”

Seated nearby, 63-year-old Jeanette Malka said she waited for her retirement to move to Israel and now hopes her children and grandchildren will join her. “It’s no place to raise Jewish children,” she said of France. “We like Netanya a lot. We feel at home here.”  Her husband, Chaim, was clearly relishing wearing his small black skullcap — something he said he feared to do in public in Paris.  More.
French Jewish families about to immigrate to Israel at Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris on July 27, 2015 (Jeremy Fournée/The Jewish Agency for Israel)

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