Photo by Naomi Zeveloff
As a million people gathered in today’s Paris march, French Jewish immigrants stood in solidarity with their co-religionists abroad, first at a post-Sabbath rally outside the French Embassy in Tel Aviv and then on Sunday at Jerusalem’s City Hall.
Hundreds of French Jews gathered in a conference room for the Jerusalem event, which began with a somber reading of the names of those killed in the attacks over the past week. Audience members held “Je Suis Charlie” signs as well as placards in Hebrew that read “Israel is Charlie” and, most creatively, “Tzar li,” a play on the name Charlie that means “I’m hurting.” The pun was a perfect way for Israelis to express empathy for French Jews and the painful experience they have just lived through.
As Israeli leaders made their way to Paris today to march in solidarity with the victims of last week’s attacks, the Jewish Agency was doing double duty by recruiting French Jews to immigrate to Israel.
Hundreds of Jews attended a Paris “aliyah fair” that had been planned before the attacks. About 1% of France’s Jewish population of 500,000 has already immigrated to Israel. Last year, 7,000 French Jews made aliyah, double the number that had come the previous year. After the attacks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to increase efforts to bring European Jews to Israel.
At the Jerusalem rally, French Jews in attendance felt mixed on the idea that French Jews should move to Israel for their own safety.
Photo by Naomi Zeveloff
Yonatan Wengraf, a 37-year-old who had immigrated to Israel 19 years ago, said he believed every Jew in the world should come to Israel — but not because of “the situation,” as he called it. “The Torah says to do so,” he said.
Wengraf said that the situation for Jews in France was getting worse, but added that Jews “should be able to live there for next few years” until, he predicted, a “civil war” would break out between Muslims and non-Muslims in France.
Oliver Raphael Sayada, who moved to Jerusalem five and a half years ago for religious reasons, said that French Jews should not make a “radical rupture” with their home country. He said that Jews in France help promote a better relationship between France and Israel.
“What happens in France concerns all the Jews here,” he said. “And what happens here concerns all the Jews in France.”
Naomi Zeveloff is the former Middle East correspondent of the Forward, primarily covering Israel and the Palestinian Territories.