Tuesday, January 19, 2016

France: Behind French skullcap debate, a growing exodus to Israel

Typically, the author John Vinocur only focuses on the Jews who are leaving to Israel but not on those who are leaving and going elsewhere, like going to London as has been reported recently by the Financial Times and The Times...  Again, typically he ends the article by saying that a group of Jews he questioned "not only said they planned to stay in France — they would also keep wearing the kippah out in the open". 

Politico.eu reports:
The question of whether it’s safe to wear the traditional Jewish head covering in France anymore became the subject of an anguished debate among French Jews last week, after a teacher in the southern city of Marseille was attacked with a machete.

It started when the head of Marseille’s Jewish community suggested it might be a good idea not to wear the cap — known as a kippah or yarmulke — for a while “in order to save human lives.” That set off a backlash from religious leaders and politicians, most of them Paris-based, who said that hiding one’s religious signs was tantamount to admitting the terrorists had won.  Even President François Hollande weighed in, saying he found it “unbearable” to imagine people having to hide their faith.

The spat put a spotlight on Jews’ security fears in a country which has the largest Jewish and Muslim population, proportionally, of any European country. But there is another, far better measure of Jewish sentiment: the number of Jews who actually pack up their bags every year and move to Israel.  According to Daniel Benhaim, head of the French Jewish Agency, which organizes moves to Israel, the number of French Jews who left to Israel in 2015 was 7,900 in 2015, almost five times the number who left in 2012.

Departures look set to increase again in 2016. If the rate holds up over the next few years, it could start to make a serious dent in France’s total estimated Jewish population of about 500,000.

“It’s a deep, powerful trend of increase compared to what we considered the natural annual rate, of about 1,500, before 2012,” he said in a telephone conversation from Israel. “There is a snowball effect: The more Jews leave, the more others see their friends and neighbors leaving and think, ‘Why not us?'”
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