Paris attacks: French Israelis urge relations to emigrate to escape anti-Semitism

Israeli officials are now hoping for a further increase in immigration from France, which accounted for the largest number of immigrants to Israel last year

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The Independent Online

At the Family Café in Jerusalem, owned by French Jewish immigrants, talk turned today to the future of France’s 500,000-strong Jewish community after the killings at a kosher supermarket reinforced growing fears that France is becoming an unsafe place for Jews.

The four, Yohan Cohen, 22, Yoav Huttab, 21, Phillipe Barlam, 45, and Francois-Michel Saada, 64, are to be buried in Jerusalem tomorrow, according to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. It said this was being done at the request of the families.

The café’s owner, Nomi Marwani, 32, said she hoped that in the wake of the attack, her cousins in Paris and the rest of France’s Jews would move to Israel soon. “I say to them, France is finished,” she said as she prepared a cafe latté for a customer, hours before Sunday’s mass rally in Paris. “I think that all the Jews must come here within a year. Not only for their security, but because this will strengthen Israel.”

Her sister, Avigail, conceded that Israel also had its safety problems, “but at least we can say it’s our country”.

The sisters spoke to a cousin in France at the weekend and say he is in a difficult position. He feels France is unsafe, yet has doubts whether he will be able to support his wife and five children in Israel. “Financially it’s an easier life for big families there,” Nomi said, with the government offering more support than they could get in Israel.

Rivka Ilan, who moved from France before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, still has two sisters there. “I’m really worried,” she said. “Even before what happened it was tense. I hope this won’t spread but everyone feels it can happen again.”

Ms Ilan said a turning point came two years ago with an attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse that left three pupils and a teacher dead. In recent years, some Jews wearing yarmulke or star of David jewellery had been attacked by Arab immigrants, she said. Of last week’s attacks, Ms Ilan said: “What’s happening now hurts me enormously. It is my culture, my language. I was a French teacher.”

Israeli officials are now hoping for a further increase in immigration from France, which accounted for the largest number of immigrants to Israel last year – 7,000, according to the quasi-governmental Jewish Agency. In this spirit, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Saturday night: “I want to tell every Jew in France and in Europe that Israel is your home.”

While Mr Netanyahu was less strident today, saying “any Jew who wants to immigrate will be met with open arms”, Daniel Ben-Simon, a former member of the Knesset from the Labor party, said the damage was done.

“The tragedy is a tragedy for France and you can’t single out Jews as a sect,” he said. “You can’t exploit any incident, tragic as it may be, to promote immigration. There are things that are not kosher.”

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