Two Planes of French Jews Immigrate to Israel

Two planeloads of immigrants from France arrived in Israel Monday, marking the largest French immigration to Israel in decades.

Ezra HaLevi, | updated: 18:09

The 330 new immigrants arrived at Ben Gurion Airport on two flights, from Paris and Mareseille, which arrived simultaenously.

The mass Aliyah (immigration to Israel) was organized by the Jewish Agency and AMI, a voluntary organization set up by French Jews to provide assistance for immigrants from France, modeled after the Nefesh b’Nefesh Aliyah assistance organization which assists immigrants from North America. AMI grants financial aid to those who need to pay back loans or move their businesses to Israel, as well as stipends for students making Aliyah.

The new immigrants were greeted by President Moshe Katzav, other government officials and mayors of towns they will be settling in.

The new immigrants include 100 children and 70 recent high school graduates who will begin their university studies in Israel. The students will begin special preparatory Hebrew-language programs at Tel Aviv University, Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan and Jerusalem’s Hebrew University.

Most of the new immigrants will be taking part in the Absorption Ministry’s Community Absorption Program. “The aim was to create a community of immigrants while still in France, and for them to make Aliyah together, and to assist in their absorption once in Israel on a group basis,” said French Aliyah representative Arielle Di Porto.

The towns chosen for the groups of olim (new immigrants) to settle in are Netanya, Be’er Sheva, Modi'in, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beit Shemesh and the city of Ariel in the Shomron.

In the first half of 2005, there was a 30% rise in immigration from France compared to the same period the previous year, according to Jewish Agency statistics. “During July, 900 people will immigrate to Israel from France,” said Jewish Agency Immigration and Absorption Director Mike Rosenberg. “By the end of the year, it is expected that 3,300 new immigrants will arrive from France - the highest number from that country in 35 years.”

Israel National Radio’s Walter Bingham was at Ben Gurion Airport for the arrival of the new olim. “There was a buzz here on the tarmac among family members of the new arrivals as the planes flew overhead,” Bingham reported from the scene.

Four Torah scrolls were also brought to Israel together with the new immigrants, signifying a continually increasing flow of France’s Jewish community toward the Jewish homeland. “France still has a Jewish population of about 600,000, but Aliyah continues to increase and we hope all of French Jewry will come home soon,” Bingham said, summing up the sentiments of those who addressed the new immigrants upon arrival.

Click here to hear the complete coverage of the arrival

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