The nation of France has been rocked by a series of terrorist attacks in recent months and in the last year 223 people have lost their lives as victims of terror in France.
France, a country with a long and storied Jewish history, boasts the third largest Jewish community in the world, only behind the State of “Israel” and the United States in terms of population. Due to growing fear of Anti-Semitism, thousands of French Jews in recent months have opted to make aliyah to “Israel” in an attempt to shield themselves from a world which seems to be spinning out of control. Their immigration is being facilitated in no small part by the Sochnut, or Jewish Agency, and others, who seem to feel it their duty to empty out the continent of it’s remaining Jews.
However, the relentless campaigning by these groups to bring French Jewry to Israel has done nothing to create a more secure environment for them, precisely the opposite. Official estimates from both countries show that over 10 times the amount of people have been killed in attacks in Israel than in France in the same timespan. According to Global Peace Index statistics for 2016, the State of Israel is the 19th most dangerous country in the world. This is especially alarming considering that Israel is listed as more dangerous than places such as Honduras and El Salvador, both of which have the 1st and 2nd highest homicide rates respectively, and Haiti, a country ranking in the top ten for corruption. Liberia, home to some of the highest numbers of child soldiers in the world and never considered a stable nation by any stretch, is also ranked as a safer place than Israel.
In comparison, France is ranked as the 46th most peaceful country in the world on the list, ahead of both the United Kingdom and the United States.
Given the fact that many of these new French immigrants are also placed in communities in Israel’s volatile north and south border regions, the Sochnut seems to be very concerned with immigration numbers but not the safety of their wards.
If the dangerous atmosphere would be the only negative factor in considering the move to Israel, maybe just maybe a person could find a way to shrug it off and turn the other way. Unfortunately, this is not the case.
From 2008 to 2013, Israeli housing prices jumped 55% to buy and 30% to rent. Affordable housing is actually available and groups such as Nefesh B’Nefesh and others who handle in immigration matters are quick to lead arriving olim, as the immigrants are known in modern Hebrew, to their new homes. The only problem is that often times these new homes are either in Israel’s northern border, where sophisticated, cosmopolitan Europeans will be neighbors with Hezbollah. Or reasonably priced housing can easily be found in the far south of the country, which gives the newcomers a chance to become acquainted with Hamas, which has operations very close by. Even with all of this, the quality of the housing is also often not up to the standards that they would usually find in France.
Many of the immigrants, a large portion of which are professionals with post-graduate degrees, can also expect to have their degrees and licenses not recognized in the state of “Israel”. That means a sizable portion of these new arrivals, many of which are in their 40s and 50s, and many of which are doctors, dentists, pharmacists, etc. have had to take jobs doing menial labor upon their arrival to the ultimate safe haven which the Jewish Agency promised them. Their Garden of Eden seems to be filled with hard physical labor.
One such immigrant, Mrs. Catherine Berdah, a pharmacist who owned a successful business in an affluent Paris suburb, recently made aliyah with her husband and two daughters. She left France because she feared for their future there. But 6 months after her arrival in the central Israeli city of Ranana, she had already quit her first job as cashier which offered her no room for advancement and then she quit her second job in a health clinic where she was told to stack boxes in a storage room. She quit because she was unable to lift the boxes. In her own words, “At 50, I was told that lifting boxes was basically all I’m good for, that’s when I started to feel humiliated.” Mrs. Berdah was told that her pharmacist license is not valid in Israel and that she must take an exam in Hebrew to grant her an Israeli license. Before she can even do this she has to meet a dizzying array of demands, including producing her attendance log from a pharmacology internship she completed 30 years ago with a French pharmacist who is no longer alive. “I’m going to give it another year,” Berdah said. “But it’s not going too well.”
Ynet News recently wrote an article chronicling the difficulties many French Jews making aliyah face, they write, “Until two years ago, David Tibi, 46, was a very in-demand dentist in Paris. So much so that even former (Israeli) Absorption Minister Zev Boim flew to France to entrust his teeth in Tibi’s capable hands. But the wheel of fortune has turned and now Tibi is sitting at home. Not because he made a professional mistake, but because he made a different mistake: making aliyah.”
When this article was written, it had marked one year since the attack on the Hypercacher in Paris, after which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on French Jews to make aliyah, promising to receive them with open arms. As Ynet News writes, “Miraculously, the Health Ministry has still not heard of Netanyahu’s promise.”
David and Marcel Attia, both veteran dentists, tell their own story. Mr. Attia says that, “I came to Israel in October to pass the licensing exam. I passed the theoretical test, but failed the practical test. In France I do a lot of complex things like transplants and surgeries, and here I was disqualified on first year student material. It seems that in Israel there are either other methods or they are purposely failing people.” Though David Attia gives the benefit of the doubt to the methodology used in dentistry in the Zionist State, considering France’s status as a innovator in dental procedures and his own board experience base, it makes one wonder as to the real reason for his failure in the exam. As far as French dentists go, there is a 70% fail rate for the theoretical dentistry test. About 90% fail the practical exam.
Dr. Caroline Ohayon, 31, worked as a senior physician in an emergency room and was also a medical instructor. Given the fact that Israel has a severe shortage of emergency physicians, a frightening thought when considering the current level of violence, she was told by the department heads of both Soroka Medical Center and Sheba Medical Center at Tel HaShomer that they would be glad to have her. But the Israeli government, the same which offered to welcome her with “open arms” took over 4 months to recognize her medical diploma and then asked her to do her residency again. Dr. Ohayon was simply baffled, “I do not understand it”, she said.
Even when they’re fortunate enough to find work the wages are generally stagnant for those not born into the Israeli system and given the cost of living in the Zionist State, such wages can hardly be expected to cover daily expenses of the average family. One Israeli explained it like this, “Israel is Third-World wages and Manhattan prices.”
However, oftentimes the greatest obstacle for these newcomers is the language barrier. According to most leading linguists, in the best circumstances a child emigre, who could be expected to pick up a new language much more easily than an adult, will need 2 full years before they say they’re comfortable with the new language. Many adults report having severe problems acclimating to a language and culture known for their aggressiveness and harshness. The prominent French newspaper La Monde, when speaking of the difficulties facing French emigres, wrote, “It is a country at war, a harsh country, where tensions are extreme, where the forces of life and death are very present, where social inequality is high, where everything is more intense. They believe that they’re arriving in a country with an European culture, (and) one is accustomed to the French welfare state. But we find ourselves in the Middle East, in a very liberal system.”
However, the knowledge that many French Jews suffer upon their arrival to Israel, both professionally and personally, has not stopped the Jewish Agency from instigating a sizable campaign to increase French aliyah. Emissaries from the Sochnut have been touring Jewish communities in France in hopes of increasing their aliyah numbers. Congregants in a synagogue in Lyon reported that an emissary of the Jewish Agency, a Mizrachi rabbi under the Israeli governmental rabbinate, gave a speech in their synagogue Shabbos saying that, “A piece of beach in Tel Aviv is worth more than all the yeshivas (Talmudical houses of study) in France” This from man who is ostensibly a religious Jew with a long beard and yarmulke, someone who would presumably view religious study with the highest regard, even if it occurs outside of his adopted land. Several congregants, including the synagogue’s rabbi, accused the emissary of playing with the emotions of the crowd and twisting various Jewish texts to fit his political agenda.
Even French MP Meyer Habib, himself a major proponent of aliyah in France, when speaking about the sorry state that many immigrants find themselves in when they arrive and about the condition of French aliyah in general, stated that, “I cannot support a situation which creates tragedies in people’s personal lives.”
With this knowledge True Torah Jews has embarked on a campaign amongst French Jewry to curb the tide of aliyah amongst our brethren, giving them the statistics and personal accounts of those who have gone before them. True Torah Jews has begun working on many fronts to ensure that both sides are given equal airtime. Through social media, circulation of literature, speaking to individuals considering aliyah and other avenues, we hope to give French Jews a more accurate picture of what most probably awaits them upon their arrival. Thank G-d, True Torah Jews has already reached over a 100,000 French Jews through social media alone. That’s roughly a 4th of all French Jewry worldwide. This campaign is designed to give them the tools to make an informed decision and to let the numbers speak for themselves.
France is a stable, democratic country surrounded by allies whereas the state of “Israel” is a land in a perpetual state of war from within and without and which tragically has a violent death rate over 10 times higher than France. No country is perfect, but if someone is considering making aliyah for reasons of safety, the choice seems painfully obvious, unless the facts are being deliberately hidden from or simply not mentioned to these immigrants.
Nathan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency and himself an immigrant from Ukraine, was forced to admit in an interview with VICE News that Israel is not statistically safer than France in a physical sense, but that aliyah is more about feeling secure and feeling at home. Working with Mr. Shransky’s theory that aliyah is a way to give immigrants a feeling of safety, than one could very easily say that, if a person felt secure in say, Syria or Afghanistan or even Shransky’s native Ukraine, then it would be worthwhile for him immigrate to any of these places. Obviously, no one would support such a ludicrous idea and Nathan Sharansky’s comments only belie a painful truth: That these French Jews are only wanted because their coming to Israel adds legitimacy to the Zionist State. They are merely numbers on the Jewish Agency’s book, bullets to be used in an ongoing PR war.
French Jews have a right to hear both sides of the story.
Coming back to the Berdah family, Mrs. Berdah and her husband, Michel, have frequently found themselves at odds as to whether their decision to make aliyah was a wise choice or not. The move has put considerable strains on their marriage. Michel Berdah wants the family to return to France, telling his wife, “You think you have something to offer here? Israel doesn’t want anything from you.” Sadly, he seems to be right.