Minister Bennett: "Israel is Missing a Historic Opportunity in Arranging Aliyah from France"
At the cabinet meeting on Sunday, Minister of Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett presented a picture of Diaspora Jewry and stated his opinion that "relations between Israel and the Diaspora have reached an unprecedented crisis."
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Minister of Education and Diaspora Affairs Naftali Bennett said at a cabinet meeting that "Israeli governments over the years have missed a historic opportunity to spur aliyah from France. There are 200,000 Jews in France who want to immigrate here. The State bodies are simply not ready to handle it.”
He added, "These are Zionists, quality people, who love the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, and it is our moral obligation to raise the gauntlet and help them. Two weeks ago, with the tools available to me, I launched an informal education program for French immigrants, but it is not enough and a more comprehensive effort is needed which should be led by the government."
In response, the Prime Minister instructed Minister Bennett to formulate a master plan to increase the immigration of French Jews and to bring it up in the ministerial committee for absorption and immigration headed by the Prime Minister. The committee meeting will be attended by Ministers Yariv Levin, Ze'ev Elkin, Moshe Kachlon, Avi Simchon, the chairman of the National Economic Council, and the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Yoav Horowitz.
Afterwards, the Minister of Diaspora Affairs presented a series of activities and projects promoted by the Diaspora Ministry to strengthen ties with Jewish communities around the world, including the expansion of Taglit-Birthright Israel (about 50,000 young people participated in it in 2018), the Mosaic United project to strengthen Jewish identity and a connection to Israel on campuses, learning about Diaspora Jewry in Israeli schools, the Momentum-Birthright project for mothers, activating an array of activities against antisemitism (tracking, monitoring, community assistance, etc.) and raising awareness of Diaspora issues among the Israeli public.
"Israeli Shortcut" chairman Zeev Zer has repeatedly warned against plans to increase immigration to Israel and that there is a great likelihood that this plan, like previous plans, will fail miserably. His assessment is anchored in surveys conducted in France, which show that about 50 percent of French Jews (who altogether number approximately 500,000) are considering emigrating from the country as a result of its socio-economic situation. Twenty-five percent said they are considering emigrating to the United States, Canada or Britain, while 100,000, about 20 percent, said they are considering immigrating to Israel. Despite this, Israel’s government failed in attracting them when it launched its "France First" program, which was implemented in a smaller and less significant form than originally planned.
Mr. Zer says that the French Jews’ lack of motivation to make Aliya and why they refrain from immigrating to Israel is because they are accustomed to the comfortable conditions available in the capitalist West. They find themselves frustrated when they have to lock horns with the Israeli socialist bureaucracy.
There are other problems that those living abroad have to confront when they move to Israel — draconian taxation, exorbitant real estate costs (such as prices for 3-room apartments in Jerusalem), and far lower income. If Israel wants to attract immigration from the west, it has to seriously deal with all these problems.
Mr. Zer says that he has received many complaints from French Jews who immigrated to Israel and say that the rosy picture they received of Aliya in the Israeli consulate in France has nothing in common with the reality they faced after making Aliya. Mr. Zer suggests that before promoting any programs, the government should first ensure that the Israeli consulate provides an honest and reliable picture to French citizens interested in immigration or returning to Israel.
He concludes, “If French Jews feel they will have security, tranquility and economic well-being in Israel, immigration will be a snap decision.”