It has only been two months since the terrorist attacks in France led to the death of 17 people including four Jews in a kosher supermarket on the east side of Paris. Prime minister Manuel Valls delivered an emotional speech punctuated with rightful indignation in front of the French Assemblée Nationale, calling anti-Semitism “The symptom of a democracy in crisis”. French President François Hollande vowed to defend France’s Jews when he was recently quoted saying: “Jews are at home in France, it’s the anti-Semites who have no place in the republic, in protecting its Jews, the republic is protecting itself.” In reality, French Jews continue to feel very uneasy in France. The assurance of safety seems to only be a façade. Even with 10,000 troops and police officers deployed all over France in front of key Jewish locations like schools and synagogues, French Jews do not feel properly protected. After all, it wasn’t long after the January attacks that some French soldiers were attacked by a man as they were guarding a Jewish site. Additionally, a Jewish cemetery was vandalized in northern Alsace and over 200 tombstones were destroyed. French Jews are scared and they are not alone. Other European Jewish communities have joined the French in their feeling of uncertainty. But there is no doubt that France leads the pack when it comes to immigration to Israel.
This unprecedented increase in immigration didn’t just happen because of the Paris attacks of January 2015. To be sure, the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe in general and France in particular has led to an exponential increase in the number of European Jews making Aliyah. But again, France is way ahead of all the other European countries. In 2012, about 2,000 Jewish people left France for Israel followed by 3,120 in 2013 (a 60% increase over 2012). Then in 2014, over 7,000 French Jews made Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, making it the largest Aliyah out of France since the 1970s and the top country for Jewish emigration in 2014( the highest global number in 12 years). We must keep in perspective that this number of over 12,000 Jews out of France over the last three years all happened even before the events of January 2015.
Over 1,000 Jews have already left France for Israel in the first two months of 2015. Numbers could exceed 10,000 by the end of the year. This is of course if no other tragic act of anti-Semitism takes place in France, something I am unfortunately not willing to bet on. Here are some other frightening statistics from the Jewish People Policy Institute:
• At least 15,000 French Jews are expected to make Aliyah by 2016. (possibly as many as 10,000 in 2015)
• The Jewish Agency is planning for up to 120,000 French Jews to move to Israel in the next 4 years.
• By 2030, over half of French Jewry could have made Aliyah.
Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky expressed his fears in the summer of 2014 in Paris while the Gaza War was taking place in the Middle East, and French Jews were already leaving in droves. He was quoted saying: “Something historic is happening, it may be the beginning of the end of European Jewry. I think it’s a tragedy for Europe, what is happening in France, the strongest of Europe’s Jewish communities, reflects processes taking place elsewhere in Europe. I keep asking people if Jews have a future in Europe.”
I am afraid that Mr. Sharansky might have been right. We might be witnessing the start of the decline of European Jewry with the departure of the French Jews as some sort of “handwriting on the wall” of western European civilization. The question that I ask myself has to do with the numbers of Jews leaving or planning to leave in the next few years. While a few thousands already create a noticeable demographic shift, if we indeed see up to 100,000 Jews leave France in the next five years or so, we are not talking Aliyah anymore, we are talking exodus.
Not all French Jews will immigrate to Israel. Some will move to America, Canada and even the U.K, but those who choose to make Israel their new home will constitute a formidable demographic and economic challenge to region. Set aside the challenge, Israel will gain a pool of people that will undoubtedly contribute to its further developing. It will be a win/win situation for the French Jews and Israel.
The loser in all this will be Europe. Already demographically circling the drain, Europe cannot afford to lose its Jews. With the Jews still in Europe, we are already seeing the emergence of Eurabia as a result of the Muslim “demographic Jihad” of the last 50 years. If France cannot protect its Jews, it is only a matter of time before other people groups or minorities become a target.
If indeed we are in the infancy stage of a mass European Jewish exodus, there is much more at stake than the loss of a once thriving community. God was not speaking figuratively when He promised Abraham to bless those who bless him and the Jewish people and curse him who curses them (Genesis 12:1-3). God meant every word of it then and He means every word of it today. With its Jews leaving, France becomes even more vulnerable to her enemies. Isn’t it ironic that the very people that many have described as a curse actually are a blessing from God?