Watch: Natan Sharansky Speaks on French Aliyah
The Jewish Agency Board of Governors met this week in Jerusalem, to discuss several issues relating to Jewish identity and world Jewry.
On Monday, Arutz Sheva's Managing Editor, Ari Soffer, spoke with Jewish Agency Executive Director Natan Sharansky on a special issue facing European Jewry in 2014: the dramatic rise in French Aliyah.
"Hopefully, 1% of the French Jewish Community will make Aliyah this year - double the number in 2013 - and 2013 was double the number we saw [making Aliyah] in 2012," Sharansky noted. "It's a very quick increase, and I would say unprecedented."
"No doubt about it, French Jewry feels insecure, they are not satisfied with the economic situation," he added. "We cannot take credit for these factors, but we can take credit for the fact that more and more Jews have decided that their number-one option is Israel - not Montreal, not London, not Miami, not Australia and other places."
Sharansky attributed the upswing to the fact that the Jewish Agency is "working very hard to strengthen the connection of every young Jew in France with Israel."
With that in mind, he said, the next step will be encouraging the young professional community in France to embrace Israel.
"We have to remove all the obstacles for young, professional Jews in France to come and work here," he emphasized, noting that a recent Knesset decision to recognize French diplomas was an "important decision" in that direction.
"I think our plan is to have as many job opportunities to bring to France from Israel as possible, to broaden our network of special absorption centers for young professionals, and many other things to intensify this movement of French Jews moving to Israel," he added.
Sharansky also stated that while anti-Semitism is the driving force behind French Aliyah, the economic realities enhances a sense of insecurity for the Jewish community.
"What creates this general feeling of insecurity is the feeling that [France] is not our home, is not our family," Sharansky said. "The fact that the Chief Rabbi of France said ten years ago that young Jews should not wear a kippa [yarmulke -ed] in Paris, and the fact that - to this day - every teacher and every Rabbi says that to children [. . .] says something about the feeling of security [there]."
"The feeling of insecurity was amplified by economic insecurity," he added. "There are very few job opportunities [there]."