Most Israelis think the new immigrants from France are rich people living in luxury apartments, but the reality is much less bright. True, there are millionaires among the French immigrants, but just like in every ethnic group, not all are so lucky.
Many of the French immigrants are forced to deal with a difficult social situation in Israel, in addition to the lack of knowledge of the language and difficulty in finding work - along with hatred toward the French and the Israeli inability to consider anyone French as being in need.
Shlomo Tzarfati, 27, is the son of new immigrants. He works in an insurance agency and tries to fight the battle for the French people pushed to the margins of society. He is active in the Keshet party, a party with a French orientation that holds one seat on the Netanya municipality.
In Atzmaut Square in Netanya, a group of young people gathers - all of whom have come from France. The tough economic situation and their disengagement from the rest of society only draws them closer to crime.
Every week, on Saturday nights, a vehicle from Elem - Youth in Distress in Israel arrives with French-speaking volunteers to try to help. Tzarfati says Elem’s work is important, since these children have lost all interest in being part of Israeli society. “There are no native Israelis in the group and they speak only French,” he explained.
One of these lost children is A., 15, who came to Israel with his parents seven years ago. He went into a regular class in school, but he found it difficult to keep up. The other students made fun of him, and A. started responding violently to his surroundings.
Tzarfati says that, one day, A. came to class with a black and blue bruise on his leg. The teacher asked him what happened and who had hit him. To win sympathy from his classmates, A. said that his father hit him. That same evening, two policemen came to his home, arrested his father in front of his shocked child, issued a restraining order and questioned all the children in the family.
Since then, A. has understood his power. He threatens his family that he will complain about them every time there is any friction. “No organization wants him. Not even the yeshivas,” said Tzarfati. Today, A. studies in a special education school and has developed an addiction to illegal gaming machines, of which there are many in Netanya. “His mother wants a solution, but the welfare people have not come even once,” Tzarfati said.
Because of the stereotype of the French being a strong, well-off group, they do not receive any social funding – as opposed to immigrants from Russia or Ethiopia, said Tzarfati. “The army is also a barrier. The French put on uniforms and think they will fight terrorists, but in the end they tell them they are quartermasters. It creates disappointment,” he added.
It’s estimated that there are 200 such children without a framework in Netanya - and hundreds of others around Israel - not being dealt with by the authorities. This number is only expected to rise as more French people come to Israel.