Minister of Housing and Construction Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi/Jewish Home) arrived yesterday (Thursday) in Paris for a visit with several members of French Parliament, community leaders, and Jewish real estate businessmen and lawmakers who could potentially advocate for Israeli building rights in courts of international law.
During the visit, Ariel will also meet with Jewish students from across France, and participate in the first "Shabbaton", or Shabbat convention, of European Jewish students from all over the European Union.
The visit is part of the Lavi movement, an organization founded in 2012 for Jewish college students across the globe to connect to Israel and Judaism. Their mission is to spread Israel solidarity and Jewish pride through meetings and conventions where Jewish students from the same region can meet to discuss and learn about Jewish and Israeli issues.
Ariel's first move after landing was to meet with students of Hirsch school in Paris, stating, "you young people are the 'movers and shakers' of the Jewish connection to Zionism, to tradition, to Jewish history and heritage[ . . .] I encourage all of you to come to Israel and to make Aliyah [to emigrate]. We embrace you and wait for you in Israel."
The MK told the French students on the different and numerous steps Israel is taking to settle the Galilee and the Negev (South). "Israeli and Jewish activism opportunities are waiting for you -- come and be a part of the building and establishment of the State of Israel."
Ariel's visit comes after heightened tensions between Israel and European Union in recent months. France, in particular, has been involved in two recent incidents with Palestinian Arab activities. On Wednesday, a French citizen was detained for spying on the Jewish village of Yitzhar, in a possible act of incitement. Last month, a French diplomat was filmed punching an IDF soldier in the face during a confrontation in the Jordan Valley. Marion Fesneau-Castaing is to be deported from Israel at the end of this year.
Ariel's visit is also particularly appropriate due a wave of increased French Aliyah, which nearly doubled in the past year. Large French communities have cropped up in Israel in recent years, in Jerusalem, Netanya, and other major city centers.