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A Palestinian protester holding a knife lies on the ground after he stabbed an Israeli soldier and was shot and killed in the West Bank city of Hebron,(Photo: Abel Haslhamoun, epa)

Jews fleeing violence in France find it in Israel

WT24 .Desk

RA’ANANA, Israel — Anti-Semitism, long-simmering tensions with France’s Arab community and  the killing of four Jewish shoppers at a kosher market in January prompted thousands of French Jews to seek safety in Israel, USA Today reports. Many of those emigrants and other French Jews who came earlier find themselves targeted once again. Two random knife attacks by Palestinians a week ago in this normally quiet, tree-lined suburb left members of the French community shaken.

“It was terrifying, and my children need to be careful on the street,” said Sandrine Cohen, owner of a clothing boutique filled with imports from Paris.  She moved here with her two children last year from the central Paris neighborhood around Champs-Élysées, where she said it was “always dangerous,” especially for her 16-year-old son, who wears a yarmulke.

Like the rest of Israel, the French community has responded with anxiety to the spate of attacks since last month that has resulted in the deaths of nine Israelis in more than 20 stabbings and 41 Palestinian fatalities. Despite the attacks, French Jews  said they have no regrets about moving to Israel, where they feel more protected. “It’s not like in Paris, which I don’t recognize anymore,”  Cohen said. “Here, though, we feel free.”

Lisa Rahmani, who came to Israel five years ago, said the French community has “never been so scared but also never so happy to be here.” “In France, it feels very different because you are threatened as a minority and not protected by the government, but I guess in Israel, we are ready to accept the violence,” said Rahmani, a former lawyer who works to connect European immigrants to employers in Israel.

In recent years, this city of 80,000 has become a magnet for highly educated French Jews seeking to escape rising anti-Semitism and bad economic times. Nearly 2,000 have come here since 2005, drawn by good schools, cultural opportunities and success in establishing small businesses, ranging from law and medical practices to patisseries stocked with eclairs.

France, which has Europe’s largest Jewish population — about 500,000 — has become the largest source of emigrants to Israel. Since last January, more than 6,000 French Jews moved to Israel, up from 3,200 in 2013, according to Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption.  The spike in French Jewish emigration is the result of what the community here sees as France’s inability or unwillingness to address Arab-Jewish tensions that have pushed many Jewish families to enroll their children in private French schools.  In 2012, a French-born Muslim of Algerian descent killed a rabbi and three children at a Jewish school in Toulouse in what he claimed was an act of retribution for Israeli killings of Palestinian children.

Last week’s first attack in the city was by a Palestinian man who approached a crowded bus station and stabbed an Israeli man. French residents were among those who encircled the assailant and kicked him on the ground before police arrived at the scene. In the second attack, a Palestinian stabbed four Israelis sitting at a cafe. The attacks have prompted many French residents to turn to one another for help. Over the past week, Whatsapp and Facebook groups have been filled with conversations on how to deal with the stress and explain the violence to their children.

Ariel Simony, a child psychologist, offered free counseling for children and their families and has made his services available on French-language Facebook pages, answering questions such as “What do I tell my 17-year-old son who wants to buy a knife?”  “It is important for the parents to understand that they need to be watchful and always age-appropriate so as to avoid paranoia, which may stay in their subconscious,” Simony said.

For example, Arab maintenance workers in the city were ordered to arrive at schools only after the end of the school day because of parents’ fear that their children would be in proximity with Arabs. “The parents see what is happening as symbolic: I trusted you Arabs, and you gave me this knife in the back,” Simony said. , USA

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