Exodus from France – an article from Hamodia

Originally published on January 16th 2015. 

The two major terrorist incidents in France last week had many similarities, but also many fundamental differences.

The most essential difference is that for the people of France, the massacre at the Charlie Hebdo was seen and felt as a ‘wake-up call’. Although not the first major terror attack in France, let alone in Europe, it was the most direct attack on French and European culture by extreme Sunni Islam. For that reason, more than its audacity, efficiency and barbarity, it struck so deep a chord in so many people and countries.

But the attack on the Jewish supermarket in eastern Paris on Friday was not felt as a ‘wake-up call” by anyone, least of all French Jews. Dreadful as it was, this was not even a definitive event. It was simply another milestone on the long road leading the Jews out of France.

The wake-up call that announced the beginning of the tragedy of French Jewry in the 21st century, sounded back in 2004-05. That was when the first round of overtly anti-Semitic events took place, including violence, vandalism arson and, unforgettably, the horrific kidnapping, torture and murder of Ilan Halimi.

After that, most French Jews understood that there was no long-term future for them in France. The rising immigration and high birth-rates among the immigrants, who are overwhelmingly Moslem, ensured that the Jews would be squeezed. If the Moslems integrated and moved up the socio-economic ladder, the squeeze would be economic and social. In the worst case, if the immigrants remained a marginalized minority, the squeeze would be physical, via violence and mayhem.

Following the economic crisis in Europe, and with the increasing radicalization of Moslem youngsters in immigrant communities in Europe, it is now clear how the French tragedy will play out – the violent but shorter way.

The truly definitive event in Paris came not last week, but last year. In July, an anti-Israel demonstration turned into a pogrom in which a synagogue was attacked by a murderous mob, and only the brave defense mounted by young Jewish activists – not the tardy response of the Parisian police – prevented death and destruction.

French Jewry – the largest Diaspora community outside of the US, the only one primarily composed of Sephardi/ North African Jews and one with very close ties to Israel – is in the process of dissolution. The key decision for every household, as always in these situations, is whether to stay or leave. Staying will require shedding all connections with Judaism and Jews and submerging into the general population. Unfortunately, not a few are choosing this option.

Leaving demands a total upheaval – but the process is already well underway. In recent years, French émigré communities have sprung up in London, New York, Miami and elsewhere in the US, as well as the obvious choice of Canada. Yet the main goal has been Israel.

French-Jewish aliya has surged, topping 6,000 in 2014 – by far a new record, but sure to be surpassed this year. The Israeli government has responded by helping French professionals find jobs in their fields and by providing assistance for immigrant kids in Israeli schools.

But this is merely scratching the surface of what is needed. Young people with good qualifications are welcome everywhere — the world is their oyster. Israel is right to seek to attract these potential olim – but that is a no-brainer.

The great challenge facing Israel, in which American Jewry will also have to play its part, is with regard to that large section of French Jewry that no other country will agree to receive – the old, the sick, the poor. These people cannot simply be left to rot as French Jewry crumbles. Their exit, if necessary their mass exodus, will have to be initiated and facilitated by their brethren and, when they get to the only place that will take them in, they will have to be provided with healthcare, housing and, wherever possible, education and training.

That is the real agenda, facing Israel and the Jewish people. Its time is almost here.

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