October 23, 2007 / 11 Cheshvan 5768
Four years into studying to be a pharmacist at the University of Paris, Carine Sakh, 27, decided to leave her studies and volunteer in Israel. "I didn't feel that being a pharmacist was the right thing for me," says Carine. "When I left university, I chose to volunteer for the Jewish Agency’s Magen David Adom (MDA) Ambulance Volunteer program in Israel." Three months after finishing the program, Carine made aliyah.
Like Carine, thousands of French young people and families are choosing to make Israel their home. Last summer, 600 new immigrants arrived in one day on two special flights from France. This constituted the single largest group of immigrants to arrive in Israel this year. Their aliyah was a coordinated effort of the Jewish Agency for Israel and AMI, a French organization which promotes aliyah.
According to Jewish Agency emissaries in France, over the past few years, major changes have taken place within the Jewish community. In the Paris suburbs, where Jews and Arabs of North African origin live side-by-side, outbreaks of anti-Semitic violence, from attacks on individuals to the burning of synagogues, have resulted in Jewish families choosing to put their children into private Jewish day schools. In spite of the more than 28,000 children in over 110 Jewish educational institutions, there are not enough places in Jewish day schools to meet the growing need.
At the same time, there are growing numbers in the Jewish community who no longer feel they can live safely as proud Jews. This was exacerbated by the shocking torture and murder of Ilan Halimi in February 2006 that shook Jews all over the world.
Encouraging aliyah and ensuring the successful absorption of all new immigrants are pillars of the Jewish Agency mission. For decades the Jewish Agency has faithfully kept the promise that any Jew, from anywhere and for any reason, can come home to Israel.
The Jewish Agency focuses on innovative approaches that can maximize aliyah for young adults, families, businesspeople and professionals from France. There are a host of pre-academic programs that encourage high school graduates to continue their higher education in Israel. The Professional Internship Program and a broad range of volunteer programs give young adults critical first hand experience living and working in Israel before they make aliyah.
For businesspeople and professionals there are assistance programs for relocating or starting a business in Israel. Dentists, lawyers, doctors and pharmacists are now able to take their licensing exams before they arrive to Israel. At Jewish Agency employment fairs in France, businesses recruit new employees, ensuring new immigrants job security before they make aliyah.
All new immigrants receive benefits from the Jewish Agency that include complementary plane tickets, ulpan classes and monthly living subsidies.
Through direct municipal absorption French families are integrating into cities such as Ashkelon, Netanya, Ashdod, Jerusalem and Tiberias, where job opportunities are available and a supportive social network of new and veteran immigrants from France is easily accessible.
Sarah Fiszlinski, who made aliyah with her husband Eliyahu and three children from France in the summer of 2007 through direct municipal absorption and now lives in Netanya says, "This is my country, that's all. That’s why I want to live in Israel. Here we can live freely as Jews."
Since 2000, 17,600 Jews have made aliyah from France. Over 32 percent are children and youth up to 18, 14.5 percent are young adults 18-25 and 30 percent are adults 25-50.