“I have been a stranger in a strange land” (Exodus 2:22).
Throughout history, the Jewish people have found themselves living in countries where they were a small minority of the entire population. Once the State of Israel was born in 1948, for the first time in two millennia we had a country of our own, where we were the majority.
In 1948, there were approximately 850,000 Jews living in Arab countries according to a U.N. document called “Trends and Characteristics of International Migration Since 1950.” By 2011, according to reports from the U.S. State Department, there were fewer than 5,000 Jews in all Arab counties combined. Morocco had 265,000 Jews in 1948 — it was the biggest community in the Arab world. In 2011, only 2,000 remained. That is an overall drop of 99.995 percent. This is a handy number to remember when Palestinians use their disingenuous rationale and fuzzy math to support their unsupportable position that is misnamed as the Right of Return.
It is now about two weeks since the unconscionable terrorist act in Paris that rocked Europe to its core. As Jews, we support the people of France and condemn the cowardly and inhumane acts of violence committed in the name of Islamic fundamentalism. Unlike our administration, which will let the emperor walk around naked in the streets, I am not afraid to be the little boy in the street, shouting “Mommy, the emperor has no clothes.” We must call out terrorism for what it is.
According to official estimates, there are now between five and seven million Muslims in France. This would be approximately 10 percent of France’s total population. However, there likely are twice that number of Muslims in France — nearly 15 million, or 20 percent of the population. That’s according to Benjamin Allouche, who heads part of the organization that represents Jewish institutions in France, the Conseil Representatif des Institutions Juives de France, better known as CRIF. In April, when Jason Shames, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, and I visited Paris to support the Jewish community there, Mr. Allouche graciously took us around. We saw firsthand the daily danger that the Jewish community experiences through visits to Hyper Cacher, the kosher supermarket where four Jews were murdered in January, and Sarcelles Synagogue, the synagogue where the president, rabbi and congregants were imprisoned during Palestinian riots in 2014.
Based upon what we saw in Paris, the stories that we heard (and I will share below), the growing anti-Semitism in France, and the most recent terrorist attack, all signs indicate that it is time for the Jewish people to leave France en mass and immigrate to Israel. Unlike in the past, there now is a country that wants Jews and is open to them. It also has a modern way of life, which is as or possibly more advanced than the life they will leave behind in France.
When we were at the Hyper Cacher, we met a woman who is the head of resources and development for the Jewish agency that is responsible for Jewish security in France, the Service de Protection de la Communauté Juive. She declined to be photographed or allow us to interview her because, she said, if her name and face were known, her life would be in danger. She told us that the SPCJ has enough resources to protect only about one quarter of the country’s Jewish day schools and food markets from terrorism. During our visit, Hyper Cacher was cordoned off by metal barricades. There was a police van there, and machine-gun-wielding officers guarded it.
As we drove the 10 miles to Sarchelles Synagogue, Mr. Allouche told Jason and me that if we were to put on kippot, get out of the car, and try to walk, we would not make it to the corner. Though we did not see anything happening on the street, he assured us that we would be attacked and beaten just for being Jewish. Though neither of us are particularly tough — we’re both middle-aged Jewish men — we are not seen as typical victims either. This revelation, therefore, was quite sobering and very depressing. We got to Sarchelles, which was protected by soldiers in full combat gear. We were able to enter with our car only after the president and rabbi greeted us and let us in. The year before, we were told, Palestinians set fires in the street outside the synagogue, and they blockaded the building. It was only through the bravery of their congregants, who surrounded the synagogue and protected them, that they were able to escape.
This is no way to live. And the prospects for French Jews are getting worse, not better. There is little future for Jews in France as the Muslim population and its radical influence continues to grow. As difficult as that is, and as deep-rooted as the Jewish community is there, it is time to make arrangements. It’s time for them to get while the getting is good. Now they can sell their businesses, take their money out, move their families and start new lives in Israel. As conditions continue to worsen the financial hardship will become much greater.
In 1970, there were 2 million Jews in the Soviet Union. As of 2011, there were only 300,000 left. Unfortunately, this is the model that the 500,000 French Jews will have to use if they want their families’ futures to be bright.
Vive la France. We wish the French people well, and we will continue to support them in their fight against terrorism. But when the barbarians are not only at the gate but inside the fortress, it is time to get out of Dodge. The Jewish people of France no longer need to be strangers in a strange land. They have a home, and it is time to return to it.
Am Israel chai!