This week, a group of Jewish immigrants from France held their final meeting with representatives of a Jewish community in Samaria before their flight to Israel.
During the meeting, a housing raffle was held for immigrants who are expected to arrive in the town of Yakir in Samaria, to determine which home each family will receive.
The new immigrants will make aliyah as a community, as part of a three-year agreement reached between the Samaria Regional Council and the Association for the Absorption of Jewish Communities. It will be the fourth such aliyah to Samaria in recent years, and marks a 40% increase over last year's aliyah to Samaria.
While French aliyah to Samaria is surging, French aliyah to the rest of the country has been declining, with some French Jews moving to Canada and other destinations citing employment and absorption issues..
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, who left for France to meet with immigrant families just before their arrival in Israel, said that "Samaria offers a unique alternative that attracts immigrants; on the one hand it is close to the center of the country, and on the other hand it is a warm and embracing community that continues to help immigrants feel at home beyond the first year of absorption."
"I am happy that after three years in which we have brought immigrants from France to Samaria with communal aliyah, the word has spread and the demand to integrate into the immigration program for Samaria is greater than the supply.
"I can not help admiring those people who are doing the greatest Zionist act, leaving everything that is familiar to them to immigrate to Israel, and certainly to Samaria, and to be part of the revival of Israel in our land," Dagan added.
Elaine Maymoni, a mother of four, is an accountant by profession and will travel with her family from Marseilles this summer. "We met with all the families that are expected to make aliyah to Yakir, and we chose Samaria because when we got there we felt something in the atmosphere, in the neighborhood, and in people who simply 'adopted us.'"
"The quality of education, the warmth of the residents, even on the spiritual and communal level - the whole of this fit us perfectly. Yakir is a mostly Israeli community, there are hardly any French people in Israel, and we thought that for the absorption process it was excellent. We need to learn the language and there is no better environment," she said.
At first she was a little frightened of living in Samaria. "We thought we had to know how to use weapons and we had to drive with bullet-proof vehicles and we were very scared. But when we boarded the bus from Kfar Saba to Samaria, we finally saw the road and it was not threatening at all."
"We saw superhighways, lots of traffic, people coming and going, and a lively life. When we got to Yakir, we saw people who lived perfectly normal lives. When you put aside the political and current aspects, you understand and feel that in Samaria you are in Israel just like in Kfar Saba or any other city. There is life beyond the Green Line (the 1949 Armistice Lines, ed.), and it is wonderful."
Rabbi Aharon Cohen, the rabbi of the Yakir settlement, arrived in Paris this week and said to the immigrants: "We are very excited about the great Zionist act you are doing - immigrating to Israel."