A record number of Jewish immigrants from France poured into Israel in the first few months of the year, according to figures released by the Jewish Agency Sunday.
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The figures show that 854 French immigrants arrived in Israel in January and February – more than three times the number arriving in the same two-month period the previous year. In 2013, almost 3,300 French Jews immigrated to Israel, an increase of 70 percent compared with the previous year. It was the first time ever that Jewish immigration from France outstripped that from the United States.
The main factors behind the recent wave of immigration from France have been rising anti-Semitism in the country and a depressed economy. With an estimated 500,000 Jews, France is home to the third largest Jewish community in the world.
The Israeli government has in recent months also decided to take a more proactive approach to luring French Jews to its shores.
Several weeks ago, the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, together with the Jewish Agency, unveiled a plan to provide French Jews with special incentives to persuade those leaving the country to make Israel their destination. These incentives include increased tuition aid for French university students, special job training programs and expedited procedures for obtaining professional certification.
Thousands of French Jews participated in an aliyah information fair held in central Paris Sunday, organized by the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency. Recent months have also seen a dramatic increase in the number of French participants in educational and experiential programs in Israel. Roughly 1,000 Jewish high school students from France participated several months ago in the Jewish Agency’s Bac Bleu Blanc (“High School Seniors in Blue and White”) program. Another 1,000 are currently participating in educational, internship and volunteer programs sponsored by Masa, a partnership between the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency. That represents double the number that participated two years ago.