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December 9, 2018 12:17 pm

Lamenting ‘Historic Missed Opportunity,’ Top Israeli Minister Calls for Plan for Mass French-Jewish Aliyah

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New immigrants to Israel arrive at Ben-Gurion International Airport, Aug. 17, 2016. Photo: Reuters / Baz Ratner.

A top Israeli minister called on the government on Sunday to craft a “comprehensive plan” to encourage the aliyah of French Jews.

In Diaspora Affairs Minister Naftali Bennett’s view, there has been a “historic missed opportunity” in recent years to bring more French Jews to Israel as immigrants.

“There are 200,000 French Jews who want to come here, and the state bureaucracies simply aren’t prepared for it,” Bennett, who also serves as education minister and head of the right-wing HaBayit HaYehudi party, claimed at a cabinet meeting in Jerusalem. “These are ethical people, Zionists, lovers of the Jewish people and the Land of Israel, and it is our moral obligation to help them.”

France’s Jewish community — totaling around half a million people — is the largest in Europe.

The annual number of French Jews moving to Israel peaked in 2015, when it topped 7,000, but has been on a significant downward trend since then.

Deputy Minister and Kulanu MK Michael Oren urged the government to also formulate a plan for the mass aliyah of British Jews if the “antisemitic” Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, became prime minister.

In his remarks at Sunday’s cabinet meeting, Bennett rejected the notion that religious pluralism concerns and the unresolved conflict with the Palestinians were causing a rift between Israel and Diaspora Jews.

“Israel-Diaspora relations are in an unprecedented crisis,” he said. “We’re often told this is because of the Western Wall and because of the Palestinian issue and because of other ideological disagreements. That’s not true. There’s a dire assimilation crisis and growing apathy among Jews in the Diaspora toward their Judaism and toward Israel. That’s the whole story, and it has reached the scale of a national challenge.”

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