- Title: FRANCE-SHOOTING/FRENCH JEWS More and more French Jews consider move to Israel
- Date: 23rd January 2015
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (JANUARY 11, 2015) (REUTERS) FRENCH JEWS SINGING SONGS OUTSIDE KOSHER SUPERMARKET WHERE ATTACK TOOK PLACE
- Embargoed: 7th February 2015 12:00
- Location: France
- Country: France
- Topics: General
- Reuters ID: LVAAE80IV8LAPLERPTA5RMCEBTKK
- Story Text: The kosher supermarket where four Jews were among the 17 people killed during a wave of attacks by Islamist gunmen earlier in the month has become a shrine, where shocked members of the community come to pray and lay flowers in memory of the victims.
Conscious that they are being targeted for their religious beliefs, more and more French Jews are nervously considering a move to Israel to escape rising anti-Semitism and make their "aliyah" -- or "ascent" to Israel.
Steevo is a French Jew living near the Hyper Cacher supermarket targeted by the gunman, and he knew some of the victims. Although he had already decided to buy his one-way ticket to Israel, recent events have made him more determined.
"It is an achievement for me to make my "aliyah", to leave for Israel, but beyond that it's come at the best time. I'm leaving during a period of confusion for France. I'm sad to be leaving the majority of the French Jewish community behind me, I hope that they too will ascend (to Israel) despite the difficulties that you find there too. You find difficulties everywhere, but here, really, you can't go shopping in peace, you can be shot anywhere," he said on Thursday (January 22) in front of the boarded-up supermarket.
France's 550,000-strong Jewish community is Europe's largest and last year it became the world's leading country for migrants to Israel with about 7,000 departures, more than double those in 2013. The Jewish Agency, which promotes migration to Israel, originally estimated the 2015 total at 10,000 but officials now say it could reach 15,000 as a result of the attacks.
At their offices, phones have been ringing constantly with the number of calls tripling since the Paris attacks.
Throughout the Jewish community, the same fears have been sparked by a series of anti-Semitic incidents in recent years including the torture and murder of Jewish youngster Ilan Halimi in 2006, and the shooting of three Jewish children outside a school in Toulouse.
For the director of the Jewish Agency Daniel Benhaim, the explanation is clear: Jews in France feel increasingly targeted because of their faith.
"People have been killed in France because they were Jews. Ilan Halimi was killed, children were murdered at gun point in a school of the Republic, people were murdered while shopping for the Sabbath. Faced with those crimes, it is not about feelings anymore, the facts are that people have died for being Jewish in France. That pulls you up short, it makes people wonder," Benhaim said.
At the heart of the capital's Jewish quarter, falafel still draws crowds of local residents and tourists. But people say the atmosphere is very different two weeks after the attacks. Heavily armed soldiers and police are posted in the small rue des Rosiers.
"You know we were born in France, we are Jewish, we are French. We're not free because you've got to have the army around, the police around Jewish buildings, so we can't breathe freely," said Myriam Groch, a French Jew whose parents came from Poland before the Second World War.
Lola Zagury said she is not considering making her "aliyah" but that she feels French before everything else and hopes things can improve.
"I don't think we feel very safe even when we go into areas with a more significant Jewish population. I live next to Porte de Vincennes (location of the Jewish supermarket) and I was really struck by what happened there, I wasn't expecting it. We know there are problems and conflicts but I didn't think it would strike us here so soon and so violently. About "aliyah", I'm not thinking about it right now, I want things to change and I hope they will, really," she said.
Florence Kahn owns a Jewish delicatessen and said that she did not see "aliyah" as a real solution.
"Israel also needs the Jewish Diaspora, Jews around the world, so it's not a solution. Also, how can we do that? We are French above everything else, being Jewish is your religion, but we are French first and foremost. France is our country, it's the country we come from, the country which took in our ancestors, the country of human rights and we consider ourselves above all to be French," Kahn said.
Stephen Berkowitz describes himself as a "progressive" Rabbi -- an American who has lived in France for over two decades. One of his priorities is to rebuild dialogue between religions in France. He argues that those fleeing to Israel because of security issues are in for a shock.
"Israel is not an easy society to live in and ultimately it should be a spiritual, religious choice but today many of the Jews that are leaving France for Israel are leaving because they are in fear. And ironically, when you land in Israel, you have to face terrorist incidents every day," he said.
Berkowitz argues one of the solutions is for people to understand their differences better.
"If we can build stronger relations with our Muslim brothers who indeed want a dialogue with us, it would make us feel secure and also, we as Jews, have to understand that Muslims are indeed victims of daily discrimination that is not yet documented and for me that's the tragedy, the irony of the current situation," he said.
In the wake of the attacks, the government has told the Jewish community that France needs them.
But for many asking whether to stay or go, the answer seems far from simple.
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