French Immigrants in Israel: Nowhere Is Safe

'All over the world the situation has become sensitive,' Crystal Halimi says, while a senior official says it is still too early to say how Paris attacks will affect immigration.

Tel Aviv city hall lit up in the colors of the French flag at a rally in solidarity with Paris after Friday's terror attacks, November 14, 2015.
Tomer Applebaum

The day after the terror attacks in Paris that killed at least 127 people, a group of new immigrants from France living in Israel were enjoying the sun along the Mediterranean Sea. In Netanya — the coastal town where the most French olim have chosen to live in the past year— French immigrants were tanning on the beach and filling up the cafes. But that doesn’t mean they felt entirely safe.

“There is no more security in France because of the terror, and there is no security in Israel because of all the attacks and wars. There is no longer anywhere to lead a safe life, all over the world the situation has become sensitive,” said Crystal Halimi, a new immigrant from France who arrived in Israel this year with her three children.

“Despite the attacks I feel a little safer in Israel because everywhere there are soldiers and police. Here, when I go to the mall they check my bag, there it doesn’t interest anyone,” she said.

In the cafe on the promenade along the sea in Netanya, three other new immigrants from France were sitting with Halimi. “A year and a half ago, I worked in an electronics store right next to one of the sites of the attacks,” said Laurent, who moved to Israel last year. “All my family is still there and I’m worried. The French are not doing anything to prevent the terror and that is what happens,” he says.

In the first nine months of the year, 6,003 Jews immigrated to Israel from France, reports the Immigrant Absorption Ministry. The ministry forecasts about 7,500 people will make aliyah from France by the end of 2015. Last year, 6,985 French olim arrived in Israel — double the 3,440 who came in 2013.

“The increase is a result of anti-Semitism, but also because of the economic situation,” said a senior immigration official. It would be a mistake to say it stems only from the terror, and it is still too early to say how the recent attacks will affect immigration, he said.

The number of immigrants from France so far this year is over twice the number of immigrants who came from the United States even though the Jewish community in the United States is over 10 times larger.

In October, 23,851 Jews immigrated to Israel, the highest monthly total in a decade.

The aliyah from France is older than average, with 50 being the median age of French immigrants in 2014, compared to 36 for all olim, reports the Central Bureau of Statistics. Just over half, 51 percent were women and they are relatively educated as a group, with over half having at least 13 years of schooling. Some 29 percent of French immigrants have chosen to live in Netanya, 16 percent in Tel Aviv, 14 percent in Jerusalem, and 10 percent in Ashdod.