If I were a French Jew the last place to which I would immigrate is the state of Israel. From any perspective that you look at this step – it does not seem to be logical to migrate from Western Europe to the land of Milk and Honey, where neither milk nor honey come at a bargain.
We’ll get to the prices later (hint: both milk and honey are cheaper in France), but let’s start with the prime factor that supposedly motivates French Jews to leave their homeland: fear of Arab terror. Israel witnessed last year more than one-thousand terror attacks and one full-scale war that caused hundreds of thousands to evacuate their homes because of rocket attacks and sent further millions of residents to seek shelter from some seven-thousand missiles that targeted any part of the country. Fifty-three Israelis civilian Jews lost their lives due to terror last year. In France, in comparison, only fifteen civilians (most of them not Jews) lost their lives in such incidents last year (and this number also includes the casualties of the recent attacks even though they took place already in January 2015). The chances of a Jew to become terror victim are higher in Israel than in France. In fact, the Jewish victimization likelihood is higher in Israel than in any country in the Western World.
Now, let’s talk money. The average salary in France is over 13,000 shekels gross. This leaves the French worker with nearly 10,000 shekels on his bank account – well above the average Israeli counterpart whose salary before tax (9,500 shekels) is lower than what the Frenchman takes home after tax. The average net earnings in Israel – around 6,500 shekels monthly – are less than two-thirds of the French average.
What you earn is one thing and what you can buy with your earnings is another. However, the local purchasing power in Paris is by 22% higher than in Tel-Aviv. If, instead of hubs, we compare the French Jews’ favorite Ashdod with the Mediterranean pearl of Marseille (the second largest community of Jews in France) the gap in purchasing power is even larger – 37%.
So security wise and financially it does not pay off to move from France to Israel – but what about culture? No matter how you slice it and dice it, French is not lingua franca in Israel. Most French Jews need to learn a new language in order to communicate with the surroundings and find a suitable work. As for landscape – this is of course a matter of personal liking, but it is not going to be easy to convince that the hills of the Galilee are more impressive than the Alps, or that Notre Dame cathedral is less imposing than the big synagogue in Tel-Aviv.
Finally, even when a French Jew comes to the conclusion that France is no longer to his or her taste, s/he can find several rich countries with nice architecture and peaceful politics like Switzerland, Luxembourg and even Canada where it is possible to settle down, make nice earnings, and still read street-signs in French.
What does Israel have to offer? It is easier to find kosher meat here and there is more variety of synagogues. To young people, Israel also offers the dubious pleasure of devoting two or three years of your life to the army.
Sounds tempting? Perhaps to Netanyahu and Benett, but not in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of Israelis who desperately search their family vaults for a proof that would grant them EU passport and not long ago took part in the popular Olim LeBerlin (“ascending to Berlin”) protest that expressed a wish to immigrate to Europe. Perhaps, Israel is a case wherein what looks nice from a distance is less attractive when you take a close-up shot.