Benediction or Incessant Friction: the Life of an Israeli Student in France

When arriving at university, many Israelis share a dream of spending a semester or two abroad. One of the many destinations appealing to young scholars nowadays is Paris, as the city is known for its top universities, student nightlife, beauty, and fine cuisine. Indeed, while growing up in a rather small country, many wish to spend some time during their studies gazing at the Eiffel Tower through their bedroom window or chilling out with schoolmates on the banks of the Seine. However, some may say that the picture is not always so perfect.

Some may say that life for an Israeli student in Paris is more difficult than that of exchange students from other countries. For example, in September 2017, a former principal at a preparatory school for teenagers in Marseille advised the mother of an Israeli young pupil not to enroll her son at his institution for fear of harassment by other students.

However, it is important to note that this is far from practiced policy and is not, sadly, confined to France alone. The anti-Israeli movement which promotes boycott, divestment and sanctions against the country (BDS) is rampant all over leading UK and American universities (Ivy League included). In France, it is bindingly illegal and legal action is taken against who practices it. Though it’s not always easy to be a young Israeli student abroad, this is definitely not something that should discourage you from fulfilling yourself academically and culturally.

In my experience, many students in France are intrigued and attracted to Israeli students, whether by sheer curiosity or driven by their desire to know more about the “Startup Nation”. In any case, it is an amazing experience that benefits both sides greatly. Promoting academic cooperation between the two countries is surely the best way to eradicate prejudice, and as one of Europe’s most beautiful and attractive capitals, it is feasible to understand why so many Israeli students desire to call Paris home for a while.

About the Author
Sharon holds a Master's degree in Political Sciences from Tel Aviv University and the prestigious Paris Institute of Political Studies, commonly referred as Sciences Po. During her studies in Paris, Sharon had interned at the Permanent Mission of Israel to the OECD, and was selected as spokesperson on behalf of the European Union of Jewish Students at the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva. She is currently employed with Israel's largest law firm, Herzog Fox & Neeman
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