More Jews Flee France Due To Anti-Semitic Attacks

Feeling like targets in their own country, record numbers of French Jews have packed up and moved to Israel, and the trend doesn't show any signs of slowing down, according to a leading French Jewish advocacy group.

In addition to the major terrorist attacks in France -- including the January 2015 massacre at French magazine Charlie Hebdo, and the November 2015 Paris attacks that killed 130 people -- there have been a number of smaller-scale attacks aimed specifically at the French Jewish community.

Those attacks range from the March 2012 shooting at a Jewish day school that killed four people, including three young children, to a January 2015 attack at a Kosher supermarket in Paris, where a gunman killed four.

After the kosher grocery shooting, French President Francois Hollande raised the nation's security level and established a military presence around Jewish community buildings. While members of the Jewish community are thankful for the security, it has also impacted the way they live their lives, said Robert Ejness executive director of Conseil Representatif des Institutions Juives de France, a Jewish advocacy group based in Paris.

"So every morning when we go to synagogue, when we go to Jewish Community Centers, when we go to schools," Ejness told NPR, "we realize every time we get into a Jewish building that we have to be protected."

Children are growing up in an environment where they see heavily armed soldiers in front of their schools and places of worship, Ejness said, and their parents are struggling to explain to them why those soldiers are there, and why there are people who want to kill French Jews.

As a result, more Jewish families are electing to leave France and take refuge in Israel, the Jewish state.

In 2011, about 1,900 French Jews moved to Israel, according to the nonprofit Jewish Agency for Israel. In 2013, almost 3,300 made the move, CNN reported, and in 2015 more than 8,000 abandoned France in favor of Israel.

Musician Charly Dahan told CNN he moved to Israel in 2014, and says it was the right choice.

"This is the first time in my life that I am relaxed," Dahan said. "In France, I also felt good, but the situation and the current problems ... it's very difficult to live as a Jew in France."

With the large-scale terrorist attacks, and the violence specifically directed toward Jews, "the French Jewish community has been living with a deep sense of insecurity for quite some time," the Jewish Agency's Avi Mayer told CNN.

That doesn't sit well with French leaders, who say their country is worse off with a shrinking Jewish community.

"Without the Jews, France is no longer France," French Prime Minister Manuel Valls said. "It's the oldest community. They have been French citizens since the French revolution."

Sources: NPR, CNN / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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