Hollande Tells French Jews to Stay

French President Francois Hollande has promised to protect the country’s Jews and assured them that “your place is here,” Israeli press reports.

The letter can be seen as a riposte to prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s invitation to French Jews to emigrate to Israel after the recent terror attacks in Paris.

“You, French people of the Jewish faith, your place is here, in your home. France is your country,” Hollande said in a speech to mark 70 years of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

The president was speaking at a ceremony at the French holocaust memoria that was attended by a small group of Holocaust survivors.

Hollande called on Internet service providers to take action against the spread of anti-semitism online. He said Internet Service providers cannot ignore anti-semitic and Holocaust-denial theories that are disseminated on social networks. Failure to take action will cause the to “be regarded as accomplices,” he said.

Hollande also called on European and international leaders to define new regulations, with penalties for Internet service providers which do not comply.

Concerns about anti-semitism in France have risen dramatically after a kosher supermarket was targeted by an Islamic militant three weeks ago. Four French Jews died in the attack.

“In 2015 can we accept that we need armed soldiers to protect the Jews of France?” the president asked.

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Synagogues, Jewish businesses, schools and cultural centers will be protected as long as necessary, he promised. France has deployed 10,000 troops to protect sensitive sites, nearly half of them to guard Jewish schools.

A report released yesterday by the Jewish Community Security Service said the number of anti-semitic acts in France doubled last year.

Jobs and Homes

The writers tells, that at a busy supermarket in Jerusalem a smartly dressed woman, recently arrived in Israel, was stopping shoppers to ask if anyone spoke French. Having found a candidate, her first question was: “Where’s the cheese counter?”

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For Jews coming to “the Jewish state” from all corners reached by the Diaspora, the move many brings relief, but it also raises challengers: a new language and culture, unfamiliar social codes and the difficulty of finding a job – let alone a cheese counter, something uncommon in Israel.

With anti-Semitism rising in French, and their worries stoked by this month’s killing of four Jews in a kosher supermarket in Paris, French Jews now make up the largest group of immigrants to Israel, nearly a third of all arrivals.

Some 7,000 arrived in 2014, double 2013’s figure. That is expected to rise again this year, with up to 15,000 French Jews immigrating to Israel.

While it may not match the mass waves of migration that helped build the country in the years after its 1948 founding, or those that followed the Soviet Union’s collapse in the 1990s when more than one million people came, immigration remains a central plank of Israeli policy and a driver of its demographics.

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Over its history, Israel has drawn in 3.6 million Jews from more than 90 countries, helping to fuel rapid growth in the economy and the population, which now stands at more than 8 million, 80 percent of whom are Jewish.

Given the vast influx, authorities are accustomed to absorbing and integrating large numbers quickly, whether they originate from Ethiopia, France , Russia or the United States. It’s the immigrants themselves who have to work hard to adapt.

Many young graduates and professionals arriving for the first time head straight for Ulpan Etzion in Jerusalem, the original residential school and absorption center that has taught Hebrew to tens of thousands of arrivees since 1949.

As well as learning Hebrew in just five months, students build a social network among their classmates, nearly all of whom are single and must be aged 22-35. Engagements and marriages are common.

“In many cases they are leaving everything behind: career, friends, family, weather, culture,” says Baruch Kostesewa, the director of the center, which is part-funded by the Jewish Agency, a non-profit organisation dedicated to migrating Jews to Israel.

“It’s not easy for people to make the transaction.

A large number of the current class of 250 are French. They cite the steady rise of anti-Semitism in their birth country as the spur for them to move. While around 500,000 Jews remain in France, there are now 220,000 in Israel.

Besides the Paris killings, people recall the attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012, and the death of Ilan Halmi, a French-Morccan Jew, in 2006.

While there is relief at being able to wear a Star of david or a kippah in Israel without fear, there is keen awareness too of the challenges related to finding work and coping with the high cost of living, the insecurity created by the conflict with the brusque manner Israelis can have.

“It’s a new mentality, a different one from Europe,” said Avigail, a 24-year-old from Paris with a masters in politics and international affairs who declined to give her family name.

“I know in Israel it’s difficult and salaries are sometimes lower. But I feel this is my nation and I’ve come to be part of it. I’m more open-minded about my career choices now,” Avigail said.