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January 31, 2014 11:50 am

Report: Israeli Government to Launch Major Initiative to Attract French Jews to Jewish State

avatar by Gidon Ben-Zvi

1,000 French high school seniors at the signature event of the "Seniors in Blue and White" weeklong trip on Dec. 19 in Jerusalem. Photo: Avi Dodi.

The Israeli government is expected to unveil a program in the next two weeks aimed at luring French Jews to immigrate to Israel, Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported on Thursday night.

The initiative will include a dramatic boost in the amount of Israeli emissaries operating in France; a significant increase in the public relations campaigns targeting French Jewry, and the implementation of new procedures that will expedite the absorption process for French Jews, Ma’ariv said.

Furthermore, the Israeli government is expected to approve new legislation that will greatly facilitate the integration of French Jews into Israeli society. By providing employment opportunities and improved housing conditions to the immigrants from France, Israel hopes the new arrivals will stay permanently, Ma’ariv said.

While the number of immigrants from France to Israel jumped from 1,600 in 2012 to 3,000 in 2013, Jerusalem has its sights set on far greater numbers. Government sources associated with the initiative have defined it as “historic.” According to the sources, this will be the first time in Israel’s history that the country will be making a direct, concerted effort to bring Jews to Israel from a Western nation, Ma’ariv said.

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The unofficial name of the program is ‘France First’ and its development was prompted by the recent wave of French Jews emigrating to the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada and other countries.

While no exact figures are available, it is estimated that tens of thousands of Jewish men, women and children have left France over the last few years, Ma’ariv said.

The exodus of French Jews has only intensified recently as a result of the deteriorating economic situation in France and a noticeable spike in anti-Semitism, according to the report. Earlier this week, a massive anti-Semitic rally was held in Paris, the likes of which haven’t been seen in Europe since the 1930s. Approximately twenty thousand people, screaming  anti-Jewish slogans attended the event.

The program will have a three-year budget and its estimated cost will be in the tens of millions of shekels.

The stated goal of ‘France First’ is to increase the number of immigrants from France from 3,000 persons in 2013 to 4,000, 5,000 and 6,000 in 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively, Ma’ariv said.

A full proposal for the program will be submitted in the coming days to the government by Israeli Immigrant Absorption Minister Sofa Landver. The initiative has many influential backers, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

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