French olim arrive in Israel Tuesday
French olim arrive in Israel Tuesdaysrael news photo: Daniel Cohen, Jewish Agency

France’s Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim blessed 220 French Jews before they left Paris and flew to their new home of Israel Tuesday on a special El Al flight. On Wednesday, they will follow other groups in a ceremony at the Western Wall (Kotel), where they will receive their Israeli identity cards, certifying their citizenship.


Newly-elected Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, former prisoner of Zion, Interior Minister Eli Yishai (Shas), and Minister of Immigrant Absorption Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beiteinu) will be on hand to welcome them.


More than 700 French Jews are expected to move to the Jewish State this summer and approximately 2,000 before the end of the year, a 10 percent increase compared with 2008.


France’s 600,000 Jewish population is the third largest in the world, following Israel and the United States, and also is Europe’s largest source of olim (new immigrants), according to Jewish Agency aliyah official Oren Toledano. “French Jews are very Zionist, that's part of their culture, history and religious practice. Israel is an essential value for the Jewish community in France,” he told the French news agency AFP.


Twenty other special olim flights are expected to touch down at BenGurionAirport during the summer, bringing 3,000 new immigrants to Israel from the U.S., Canada, Britain, the former Soviet Bloc countries, South America, Africa and Ethiopia. Another 2,000 olim will arrive on other flights.


The Jewish Agency expects a 15 percent increase in aliyah this year compared with 2008.