Some 400 French Jews will be making aliyah to Israel Wednesday, undeterred by the ongoing rocket fire and conflict with terrorist groups in Gaza.
The group is set to arrive aboard two special flights organized by The Jewish Agency for Israel and the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption, and notably is comprised largely of families with young children, including 195 minors and 18 babies according to the Jewish Agency.
Most of the immigrants are from the Paris area, which has seen particularly virulent manifestations of anti-Semitism in recent years and which has spiked further still during the current conflict between Israel and Gazan terrorists. On Sunday, a synagogue in Paris came under attack by a crowd of Muslim anti-Israel demonstrators in a shocking incident which one witness described as reminiscent of Kristallnacht.
Remarkably, although the new olim will be moving to communities throughout the country, a sizable proportion will be moving to cities in southern Israel which even now continue to be targeted by terrorist rockets. 60 families will be moving to Ashdod and Ashkelon, which have faced daily attacks by Gazan terrorists.
A further 100 will be moving to Tel Aviv, which has also received its fair share of rocket attacks, including four long-range rockets fired this morning. 50 more families will be moving to Jerusalem, which has faced sporadic rocket fire, and 130 more will be starting their news lives in the coastal city of Netanya, which is already home to a large French expat community.
The new arrivals will be greeted at Ben Gurion International Airport by Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver, Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky, and Director-General of the Prime Minister's Office Harel Locker.
While aliyah from France has been steadily rising for several years due to economic stagnation and rising anti-Semitism, 2014 has seen a particularly dramatic rise. Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption and The Jewish Agency expect more than 5,000 French Jews to immigrate to Israel by the end of the year - compared to 3,289 in 2013. Those figures are made all the more remarkable by the fact that 2013's figures themselves represented a full 60% increase in aliyah from France to 2012, when 1,917 French Jews moved to Israel.
That trend is continuing in 2014, with approximately 2,600 French Jews arriving in Israel during the first six months of the year alone, compared to 812 during the equivalent period in 2013.
But despite economic difficulties and anti-Semitism at home, Jewish Agency officials are quick to point out that the rise in those opting to move specifically to Israel as opposed to elsewhere in Europe or to the US are due to a special plan developed by the Ministry of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption and The Jewish Agency to encourage Aliyah from France and ease French Jews' integration into Israeli society. The plan includes efforts to strengthen Jewish identity among French Jewish youth, expand Israel experience programs, remove bureaucratic barriers to employment in Israel, and boost the number of Jewish Agency shlichim (representatives) in France.
"Two weeks ago, when we met in Paris at the moving ceremony during which you parted with the country of your birth, I met entire families whose veins flow with Zionism, who are willing to leave their entire lives behind in order to realize their dream of immigrating to Israel," said Minister of Aliyah and Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver.
"Every immigrant who arrives in Israel strengthens us as a people, and this is all the more so when it comes to the growing Aliyah from France. I congratulate you on taking this meaningful step and promise that we will be at your side throughout your journey. Welcome home."
Chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel Natan Sharansky noted how "Despite the rocket onslaught against the people of Israel, not one immigrant from France has canceled his or her arrival."
"More and more people are asking whether Jews have a future in France, but no one doubts that French Jews have a future in Israel," he added, and noted the significance of the fact that if aliyah predictions for 2014 are met 1% of French Jews will have moved to Israel this year.
"Within a single year, and for the first time in history, a Jewish community in the West is sending a full percent of its Jews to build their lives in the State of Israel. We await you in Israel with open arms"