France tops list for Jewish emigration to Israel
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More Jews have left France for Israel so far this year than from any other country, a leading Jewish group said on Friday.
"France is today the leading country for Jewish emigration to Israel. It has never been before," said Ariel Kandel, head of the French office of the Jewish Agency for Israel.
Kandel cited figures from the Israeli integration minister showing that, as of August 31, 4,566 Jews had left France for Israel this year.
This was ahead of Ukraine (3,252), Russia (2,632) and the United States (2,218).
"We will get close to 6,000 departures from France in 2014," added Kandel.
Kandel noted that the predicted departures this year were likely to be around one percent of the total Jewish community in France, which is estimated around 500,000.
"In the Western or free world, we've never seen one percent of the Jewish community emigrating to Israel," he said.
Kandel cited a "climate of anti-Semitism that is losing its taboo" as well as economic difficulties in France, which is suffering from zero growth and record high unemployment.
In addition to the largest Jewish diaspora in Europe, France is also home to the continent's biggest Muslim community, which is estimated at around five million.
In demonstrations over the conflict in Gaza over the summer, violent anti-Jewish obscenities were heard on the streets of Paris and some Jewish businesses were destroyed in Sarcelles, just outside the capital, where there is a sizeable Jewish community.
Social commentators have expressed worry about significant anti-Semitism among youths of north African origin living on the outskirts of France’s large towns and cities.
The recent ugly scenes led President Francois Hollande to acknowledge in an interview this week with leading daily Le Monde that there had been a rise in anti-Semitism in France.
"One can voice one's opinion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without making French Jews or Muslims the victims. We need great intolerance of intolerance," said the president.