By Aryeh Savir
Tazpit News Agency
JERUSALEM – Chairman of the The Jewish Agency Natan Sharansky announced today that global Aliyah (immigration to Israel from around the world) is up 55%, due largely to dramatic increases in immigration from France and Ukraine. Speaking at the opening plenary of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors’ June meetings in Jerusalem, Sharansky announced that The Jewish Agency estimates French Aliyah will surpass 5,000 individuals by the end of 2014, an all-time record and a full 1% of the 500,000 person French Jewish community. Never before has such a large proportion of a Western Jewish community made Aliyah in a single year.
Chairman Sharansky said: “Never in the history of the State of Israel has there been a Jewish community in the free world that has sent such a large proportion of its Jews to Israel. We cannot take responsibility for the fact that so many Jews and so many French young people in general are leaving France, but the fact that Israel has become the number one destination for young French Jews is a testament to our success in connecting them to the Jewish state.”
Sharansky noted that The Jewish Agency’s Israel experience programs, including Masa Israel Journey and teen program Bac Bleu Blanc, have seen record growth amongst young French Jews over the past two years, and stated that it is The Jewish Agency’s responsibility not only to facilitate French Jewish . but also to strengthen Jewish life in France.
According to Jewish Agency data, a total of 7,912 individuals have made Aliyah since the beginning of the year, compared to 5,092 during the comparable period in 2013 , consisting of a 55% increase. This number does not include Aliyah from Ethiopia, the pace of which is determined by the Government of Israel. 713 Ethiopian Jews made Aliyah during this period in 2013, a number that dropped to 143 this year due to the conclusion of Operation ‘Dove’s Wings’.
2,254 French Jews made Aliyah during the first five months of 2014, compared to 580 during the equivalent period last year, a dramatic 289% increase. The first five months of the year also saw a dramatic increase in Aliyah from Ukraine, with 1,587 Ukrainian Jews immigrating to Israel, compared to 684 during the same period in 2013, a 132% increase.
France has been experiencing a violent wave of anti-Semitism in recent years. The highest volume of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe during 2013 occurred in France. French Jews have expressed an intensified feeling that personal safety and communal wellbeing have been jeopardized over 2013. 73% of French Jews blamed radical Muslims for the surge in violence. Ukraine has been experiencing turmoil and civil war, which has brought to a fear in the rise of anti-Semitism and a Jewish exodus from Ukraine.