Leaving an Increasingly Hostile France, a Fast-Growing Immigrant Group Is Making Its Own Mark on Israel

Oct. 28 2022

In the past decade, according to official Israel statistics, 41,860 French Jews have resettled in Israel, a not-insignificant proportion of France’s Jewish population of roughly 500,000. As Matti Friedman observes, this wave of immigrants has begun to leave a mark on the Jewish state:

Because the condition of Jews is a barometer of events anywhere, and because Israel has always been a barometer of Jewish life in other places, in Israel you can sense events far away. Even without ever watching the news this year, for example, you’d notice unusual numbers of Ukrainians around, and young Russian speakers with fashionable sneakers just off the plane from Sheremetyevo, bewildered and traveling light, and you’d know that something fateful is happening in and around the Russian Federation.

[Now] the French have assumed a solid shape in the shared imagination of the Israeli public—not the older clichés of de Gaulle or Yves Montand, but that of a traditional Jew, less European than Mediterranean, Casablanca via Paris, God-fearing, life-loving, right-leaning, the imprint of a Star of David necklace sunburned onto the chest after too many hours at the beach. The beach at Netanya, of course, because with all due respect to Jerusalem, it’s Netanya, on the coast north of Tel Aviv, that’s seen as the holy city of the French. On a recent afternoon in a local playground there, nearly all of the young families seemed to be Francophone.

What brings these Jews to leave the land of their birth? One tells Friedman that he came to Israel as a teenager because moving there was his parents’ “dream.” Another simply says that he came because his wife wanted to. But there are other factors as well:

Tension in the neighborhoods where French Jews and Muslims had lived in close proximity built up to the 2006 incident mentioned in nearly every conversation with French immigrants: the killing of twenty-three-year-old Ilan Halimi, who was kidnapped and tortured for more than three weeks by a group of young Muslims calling themselves the “Gang of Barbarians.” His body was found by a road on the outskirts of Paris, French authorities denied at first that hatred of Jews had anything to do with it, and immigration numbers more than doubled the following year.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Aliyah, France, French Jewry, Israeli society

Will America Invite Israel to Join Its Multinational Coalitions?

From the Korean War onward, the U.S. has rarely fought wars alone, but has instead led coalitions of various allied states. Israel stands out in that it has close military and diplomatic relations with Washington yet its forces have never been part of these coalitions—even in the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraqi missiles were raining down on its cities. The primary reason for its exclusion was the sensitivity of participating Arab and Muslim nations. But now that Jerusalem has diplomatic relations with several Arab countries and indeed regularly participates alongside them in U.S.-led joint military exercises, David Levy believes it may someday soon be asked to contribute to an American expedition.

It is unlikely that Israel would be expected by the U.S. to deploy the Golani [infantry] brigade or any other major army unit. Instead, Washington will likely solicit areas of IDF niche expertise. These include missile defense and special forces, two areas in which Israel is a world leader. The IDF has capabilities that it can share by providing trainers and observers. Naval and air support would also be expected as these assets are inherently deployable. Israel can also provide allies in foreign wars with intelligence and cyber-warfare support, much of which can be accomplished without the physical deployment of troops.

Jerusalem’s previous reasons for abstention from coalitions were legitimate. Since its independence, Israel has faced existential threats. Conventional Arab armies sought to eliminate the nascent state in 1948-49, 1967, and again in 1973. This danger remained ever-present until the 1978 signing of the Camp David Accords, which established peace between Egypt and Israel. Post-Camp David, the threats to Israel remain serious but are no longer existential. If Iran were to become a nuclear power, this would pose a new existential threat. Until then, Israel is relatively well secured.

Jerusalem’s new Arab allies would welcome its aid. Western capitals, especially Washington, should be expected to pursue Israel’s military assistance, and Jerusalem will have little choice but to acquiesce to the expeditionary expectation.

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Read more at BESA Center

More about: IDF, U.S. military, U.S.-Israel relationship