PARIS (AP) - Increasing numbers of French Jews are leaving for Israel, citing dim economic prospects and a sense of being caught between an increasingly influential far right and militant Islam. More than 5,000 are on track to leave this year, the most since after the Six-Day War in 1967.
Israel, seeing the influx as a success, is doubling down on its efforts to attract Europeans, planning to dedicate $29 million over two years to bring in new immigrants.
France has the world’s third-largest Jewish population after Israel and the United States - about 500,000, according to rough estimates in a country that has outlawed any official documentation of a person’s religion since the Holocaust.
Since World War II, France has redoubled efforts to make Jewish families feel welcome. But many say dramatic acts of anti-Semitism coupled with France’s stagnant economy - which includes a 25 percent youth unemployment rate, compared with 11 percent in Israel - make a hard choice easier.
Laurie Levy, 26, left in 2013. A native of the southern city of Toulouse, her departure came after attacks by a French-born Islamic radical on a Jewish school and soldiers left seven people dead, including three children and a rabbi. She has given up on a career in French law and left behind her parents and siblings.
In Tel Aviv, she no longer feels the need to hide the Star of David she wears around her neck. But there are other concerns: Her parents are unlikely to uproot themselves and she worries about their future back in France. They, in turn, worry about her, living alone in a different country.
“Life is beautiful here. You work. You go to the beach. You see your friends. You’re not afraid,” said Levy, who now works at an Israeli design firm. “The irony is that I am more concerned about them than they are about me.”