The Jewish National Fund on Sunday ran what Efi Stenzler, the World KKL-JNF Chairman, said was a very successful program in Paris. “Israel Today and Tomorrow” showed off different aspects of Israel, including medical and technological advances, natural resources and vacation sites, and history. The pro-Zionist event was held at the Les Palais Royal Sunday, in a very public show of support for the struggling French Jewish community in the wake of waves of anti-Semitism in France.
“The community asked the JNF to lead this event,” said Stenzler, a JNF representative. “This is the largest pro-Israel event we have had here in many years. Many members of the community participated, and we had officials from Israel as well. It is a historic event for French Jewry.”
The JNF is generally known for planting forests in Israel, said Stenzler, but it also organizes many events in the diaspora for communities around the world. “Since 1901 we have been the bridge between the Jewish community in the diaspora and Israel.”
The bridge between Israel and France is stronger than ever. “In the past year there has been a 63% increase in newcomers to Israel from France. We are very happy that so many have come, but we need to strengthen the community that remains behind as well, and we had many members of the Jewish community, as well as the non-Jewish community, who have come to see what Israel is all about.”
The conference will be surrounded by an unprecedented amount of security forces after anti-Semitic and pro-Palestinian groups have vowed to disrupt the event with counter-demonstrations and other disturbances, according to JNF sources. At least one threat was realized already, when a cyber-attack was launched against the website for Les Palais Royal, branding the site with hate messages against Israel. “French police are out in force to protect the event,” Stenzler said.
Over the past few years, anti-Semitism has been skyrocketing in France. One report revealed that anti-Semitic incidents rose 58% in 2012. Anti-Semitic attacks have been escalating considerably in the past year in particular. The ongoing crackdown against anti-Semitic comedian Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala has revealed the normalcy of anti-Semitism as part of popular opinion and culture; over 5,000 tickets sold in a short period for the comedian's opening night despite condemnation from French politicians and the French media.
Fears have sharpened drastically since a huge anti-Semitic rally was held on the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day last week, with over 17,000 protestors participating in a march which featured leaders screaming slogans against Jews and denying the Holocaust.