Je Ne T’aime Pas Israel: Drop in French Jews’ Immigration to Israel

Sharp downturn in French immigration to Israel blamed chiefly on absence of job opportunities, study says.

Two French olim proudly showing their new Israeli ID cards. Photo courtesy The Jewish Agency.
Two French olim proudly showing their new Israeli ID cards; photo courtesy The Jewish Agency.

By Judy Maltz

Despite major efforts invested by the Israeli government to encourage French immigration, the number of Jews moving to Israel from France this year is expected to drop by 40 percent, according to a report published Monday.

This sharp downturn has been attributed primarily to the failure of the government to effectively integrate these immigrants from Europe’s largest Jewish community into Israeli society.

In its 2016 annual assessment, the Jewish People Policy Institute, a Jerusalem-based think tank, specifically blames the slowdown on the lack of adequate job prospects for French Jews in Israel. “French Jews considering aliyah fear a fate similar to that endured by some of their relatives,” according to the report.  “A chief concern is that they will find it difficult to work in their chosen fields or to earn at the level to which they have become accustomed. For these reasons, some French Jews are delaying aliyah or even moving to countries other than Israel.”

The drop in immigration from France follows three years of unprecedented growth. A series of terror attacks, several of them targeting Jews, coupled with a sharp economic downturn were the catalysts of the French aliyah boom.

In each of the last two years, more than 7,000 Jews relocated from France to Israel, making France the top provider in the world of immigrants to Israel. Based on numbers for the first eight months of this year, the JPPI report estimates that only 5,000 will arrive by the end of 2016.

Several other factors, according to the JPPI report, may have contributed to this downturn, among them the French prime minister’s commitment to protect the Jewish community and the recent spike in terror attacks in Israel. Another possible explanation, it said, is that most of the ideologically motivated Jews in France have already moved to Israel.

Still, according to the report, an estimated 200,000 French Jews (40 percent of the entire community) have, in two recent surveys, expressed interest in immigrating to Israel. “The aliyah slowdown does not necessarily indicate that the pool of French Jewish aliyah candidates has ‘dried up’ or that interest in immigration has lessened,” according to the report. “Rather, it likely indicates the existence of delaying factors that have yet to be addressed.”

The authors of the report recommend that rather than invest more time and effort in campaigns to encourage French Jews to immigrate, the government would be best advised to focus on helping those who have already arrived adjust to life in Israel.

“In our view, accelerating the pace of immigration from France does not entail augmenting current aliyah-management efforts,” they write. “Not is there a need for aggressive marketing campaigns or additional aliyah fairs. What is needed is a response to the basic needs of employment, including degree recognition, professional training, job placement and assistance in finding affordable housing.”