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Published on 14 September 2016

Commuter aliyah: Living in Israel, working in France

Israeli researcher of French immigrants says he discovered a wave of immigration unlike any other.

Israel must help French Jews remain in the Diaspora

By Rotem Starkman, published in Haaretz September 14, 2016
Dr. Yitzhak Dahan’s Bar-Ilan University doctoral dissertation about French immigration to Israel is the only comprehensive study of its kind on the subject of aliyah from France. He has also studied Jews from North African countries Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco who chose to emigrate to the West, particularly to France but also to Canada.
A considerable proportion of France’s pre-war Ashkenazi Jewish population was killed in the Holocaust, and Jews from North Africa now constitute a majority of French Jewry. Thirty to 50 years after their arrival in France, Dahan deems their integration into French society a success from every standpoint. “They have been successful in the media, in art, in academe, in law” and other professional fields, he notes, adding that until not long ago, 80 percent of the worshippers at the synagogue in the eastern French city of Strasbourg were doctors. “You go to hospitals in France and a considerable number of the department heads are Jewish and it’s also the same with dentistry.”
Their success, he said, was less pronounced in business, but there are a few French Jewish business people of North African origin, such as Patrick Drahi, who controls Hot, the Israeli cable television service provider, and Michael Golan, who founded the cellular service firm Golan Telecom, who have also made their mark in Israel.
Asked how the fate of North African Jews who went to France compares with those who emigrated directly to Israel, Dahan said there was a major study of families who split up, with some going to France and others to Israel. From a professional and economic standpoint, those who went to the West, to France and Canada, achieved greater success, he says.
Easier in France
Their integration into France was eased by knowledge of French and the French system, Dahan notes. “An Algerian Jew who was a mailman or a teacher arrived in France and obtained the same job, including a pension and social security, making it a rather smooth transition,” he said, adding that the generous social and educational benefits in France also provided a receptive setting.
And in Israel?
Israel had just been established, he replied, and, referring to a relatively isolated Negev desert town, added: “And they were sent to Yeruham instead of Paris. The disparities have begun to shrink over the years, but in Israel we have simply skipped a generation or a generation and a half.”
When challenged over his claim of shrinking disparities, when French immigrants to Israel may have three apartments in Paris and one in Tel Aviv while North African immigrants to Israel still may not be able to afford a home, Dahan replies: “That’s not accurate. There are also immigrants who settled in Ashdod in the 1960s, for example, and they own apartments. The disparities are not so great, and not all French Jews live in the prestigious 16th Arrondissement [of Paris]”... Read more.

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