By Daniel Ofman, staff Writer, @OfmanDaniel
About two weeks after the horrid attacks on the Charlie Hebdo office headquarters and a kosher market in the heart of Paris, we are now entering a time of reflection.
Representatives from all over the world came to Paris to participate in a massive unity march. Curiously the highest ranking U.S. representative at the march was Ambassador Jane Hartley. Funerals have been held for the French police officers murdered by the terrorists and for the Charlie Hebdo magazine staff members who were killed for printing satirical cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad. Finally the four hostages who were killed in the kosher market have been buried in Israel in the presence of many Israeli leaders including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Where does this leave us now?
French and Israeli organizations have had varied responses after the Charlie Hebdo attacks ranging from changing surveillance methods to encouraging immigration.
Israel had a strong presence in Paris during the unity march, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Minister of the Economy Naftali Bennett and Minister of Foreign Affairs Avigdor Lieberman in attendance. The representatives’ general message was that the State of Israel is with the French Jewish community in times of pain, and the opportunity of swift immigration to the homeland is always available.
Many leaders and politicians in both France and England are using the Charlie Hebdo attacks to advocate for heightened surveillance, which others view as an invasion of privacy. Andrew Parker, Director General of MI5 called for more surveillance and more power for intelligence agencies just a day after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. In Germany, thousands have rallied to shut off outside immigration reacting to the recent attacks and the general increase of the Muslim population in Europe.
Among the responses listed above the most personal for me is French Jewish immigration to Israel.
With about 6 million Jewish citizens, Israel is the country with the largest Jewish population. The United States is second with between 5 and 6 million Jews (depending on definition of Jewish) and France is third with the largest Jewish population in Europe (about 500,000). At the same time according to the Jewish Agency and the Ministry for Aliyah, France is the largest feeder country to Israel with about 7,000 immigrants last year, more the double the amount from 2013. The number of immigrants from North America was approximately 3,800. Many believe that the number of French immigrants may double in the next few years due to the increase in anti-Semitism and violence.
As a Jew and great supporter of Israel, I am at a crossroads.
On one hand I am happy whenever there is a big push from any group of people to make aliyah, immigrating to Israel. I recognize that I am living at an extraordinary time when it is statistically likely that in the next 20 years most of the world Jewish population will be living in Israel. This is likely because according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2013 intermarriage statistics in the United States are rising and additionally immigration to Israel is also increasing. If we see the French immigration number jump to the degree that experts are expecting, such a reality will come even quicker.
On the other hand, as someone who has moved five times including immigrating to Israel and returning back to the United States, I understand how difficult immigration could be. It is even more difficult when the process becomes a reaction to painful circumstances at home rather than a calculated move out of idealistic optimism.
If the Jewish French immigration statistics skyrocket in the next year, I would not have the same positive reaction that I would under neutral circumstances. Anytime someone leaves a homeland, I want the reasoning to be idealistic rather than reactionary, especially when it comes to making aliyah. I surely hope that the safety of French Jews is addressed and that they do not have to live in fear. In any case Israel will receive Jewish immigrants from across the world with open arms; however, I hope that in the future it doesn’t take events like the Charlie Hebdo attacks to catalyze such a positive movement.