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Do French Jews have reason to fear?

By: Christophe DANSETTE | Johan BODIN

"For the first time in 70 years, France has become a country of Jewish emigration". This is how the Chairman of France’s Central Consistory, Joël Mergui, gloomily sums up the situation. With anti-Semitic violence on the rise in France in recent years, some French Jews see no other solution than to leave. They head for Israel, or other countries they consider safer for their future. Our reporters decided to find out more.

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"Right now, people are reporting two anti-Semitic acts per day," laments Sammy Ghozlan, president of the Anti-Semitism Vigilance Office, an association created ten years ago, during a previous wave of anti-Semitism. In the first eleven months of the year, he and his colleagues counted nearly 900 threats and actual violence against Jews, more than twice the number last year. "Anti-Semitic speech has become more common", he notes, bitterly.

Official government figures are also indisputable. According to one report, half of all racist violence targets Jews, even though the community makes up less than 1.5% of the French population. Just this week, a Jewish couple in the Paris suburb of Créteil were robbed by three armed men and the woman was raped. The victims were apparently targeted for being Jewish.

'I do not want my daughter to grow up in France'

Today, more and more Jews are wondering if there is a future for them in France. Faced with this rise in hatred, more and more of them are choosing to pack their bags. Not all of them choose to go to Israel; some leave for Quebec, Los Angeles or San Francisco.

"Applications for US visas by French Jews have doubled since July", says Mr Elmaleh, a Miami-based lawyer specialised in immigration. "Very often, people tell us about their security problems. We are even asked if it is possible to grant them political asylum! Of course, the answer is no”. In New York and Montreal, other lawyers whom we interviewed for this report confirm the trend.

But most of France's Jews choose Israel as their destination. Nearly 7,000 have arrived this year, according to the latest figures from the Jewish Agency. It’s a record figure, twice as high as last year and four times higher than two years ago.

Of course, not all of those who wish to perform Aliyah, emigration to Israel, leave because of security issues. Some move there primarily for religious reasons, others for economic reasons, others still to enjoy a better quality of life. But the rise of anti-Semitism in France has sometimes hastened their departure.

This is certainly the case for the head of a large company whom we met, and who has left France for Tel Aviv. "I deeply love France. This is my country, but it is no longer possible. Things will get worse and I do not want my daughter to grow up here," she sighs. But this entrepreneur did not want to appear on camera. "At first I really wanted to speak out, but I have clients in the Middle East, in Muslim countries, and I fear that this may have implications for my work," she explains.

She is not the only one who ended up refusing to appear on camera in our report. Sylvie, whom we also interviewed, insisted that we conceal her identity. "You can show my face once I have arrived in the United States", she says. To safety.

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