A quarter of Jews in Britain have considered leaving the country in the last two years and well over half feel they have no long term future in Europe, according to a survey published on Wednesday.
Jewish men talk in Golders Green, London, January 10, 2015 – Photo: Reuters
Additionally, anti-Semitic beliefs are widely prevalent among the wider public with 45 percent of Britons agreeing with at least one anti-Semitic sentiment, the YouGov poll for the Campaign Against Antisemitism group found.
The survey comes a week after four French Jews were killed in an attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris which led to police stepping up security at synagogues and other Jewish venues across Britain.
“Whilst anti-Semitism in Britain is not yet at the levels seen in most of Europe, the results of our survey should be a wakeup call,” said Gideon Falter, chairman of the CAA in a foreword to its report.
“Britain is at a tipping point: Unless anti-Semitism is met with zero tolerance, it will continue to grow and British Jews may increasingly question their place in their own country.”
The Community Security Trust, which provides security advice to Britain’s estimated 260,000 Jews, said anti-Semitic incidents in Britain had risen to a near record level during Operation Protective Edge last summer.
According to the CAA’s poll of 2,230 British Jews, 58 percent felt Jews might have no long-term future in Europe, 45 percent felt their family was threatened by Islamist extremism and more than half had witnessed more anti-Semitism in the last two years than ever before.
The survey of the wider public found a quarter of Britons believed “Jews chase money more than other British people,” and one in six agreed that “Jews think they are better than other people” and “Jews have too much power in the media.”
In all, 45 percent of the 3,411 questioned believed at least one anti-Semitic statement shown to them to be true.
France has posted almost 5,000 extra police officers to protect Jewish sites after last week’s killings, and on Tuesday, British Prime Minister David Cameron met Jewish leaders to reassure them and see if there was more that could be done to ensure their safety.
“I think we have to recognise that in a modern democracy you can never protect every threat but we should do everything we can and be as vigilant as we can to help reassure,” he told them.
Meanwhile, as more and more French Jews nervously consider moving to Israel to escape rising anti-Semitism, many worry Israel may not be as much of a promised land as they would hope.
Three days of violence in Paris last week, when four Jews were among the 17 people killed by Islamic terrorists, has made “aliyah” — or “ascent” to Israel — the main topic among the country’s 550,000-strong Jewish community, Europe’s largest.
Over the weekend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told French Jews, “Israel is also your home.”
But in debates in Jewish neighborhoods or at Israeli information sessions, worries about what awaits them — notably the loss of generous French social benefits — are as strong as concerns over the growing hostility they face in France.
“After what’s happened, everybody’s talking about it and more people want to leave,” said Sami, 38, a financial analyst living near the kosher supermarket where last Friday’s attack took place.
“But we don’t want to leave at any price,” he said. “It’s like starting a new life. We’re French and it’s an Israeli culture there. They don’t recognize all our university degrees. You need Hebrew, so you have to learn a new language.”
“I talked about it with my wife yesterday, and we got into a fight,” said Sami, a member of a volunteer parents’ security service to protect the nearby Jewish school his children attend.
At an information fair run by the Jewish Agency, which promotes immigration to Israel, a middle-aged man who certifies food as kosher — or fit to consume under Jewish law – worried he wouldn’t find a job. “They have plenty of kosher certifiers there,” he said.
In one corner of the room, couples huddled with Israeli social security officials, glumly comparing the services they enjoy in France to Israel’s leaner healthcare coverage, unemployment support or pension payments.
Even the attraction of living securely among Jews is countered by other realities. “It would be easier to live as a Jew there, but they have terrorism too,” said psychologist Yakov Kowarski, 59, who hides his kippa under a cloth cap.
France became the world’s leading country for immigrants to Israel last year with about 7,000 departures, more than double those in 2013. The Jewish Agency originally estimated the 2015 total at 10,000 but officials now say it could reach 15,000 as a result of last week’s terrorist attacks in Paris.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls bristled at the thought that a minority dating back two millennia could disappear, declaring: “France without French Jews would not be France.”
The Jewish Agency has stepped up its operations in Paris, now holding information fairs for potential immigrants every three weeks rather than twice a year as before, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky told Reuters on Sunday.
About 50,000 Jews attended the sessions last year, said Sharansky, a former Soviet dissident who “made aliyah” in 1986. “The potential for aliyah is huge,” he added.
The Jewish Agency said calls to its French call center had spiked in recent days, but visitors to Sunday’s information fair said they did not come because of last week’s attacks.
“We’ve been thinking this over for the past four years and still can’t decide,” said a woman afraid to go to her work at a Jewish creche after being insulted and spat on in the street.
“I’m French, born and educated here,” she protested. “Why should I have to leave my job after 30 years and emigrate?”
The flip side of aliyah is that an estimated 20 percent of French immigrants return within five years. Some richer businessmen opt for “Boeing aliyah,” moving families to Israel but keeping jobs in France and commuting at weekends.
“My sister lives in Israel and she says it’s tough,” a young man named Mikhael said outside the supermarket where last Friday’s attack took place. “If you’re not set up in advance with a job and housing, it’s very difficult.”
Immigration seems most difficult for working-class Jews, many of whom live in suburbs with larger Muslim populations, because France’s healthcare, education and childcare benefits fill important gaps in their budgets.
These poorer Jews are mostly from Sephardi families that emigrated from North Africa in the 1960s as former French colonies there became independent.
“The French are used to getting assistance on all sides,” said Sydney Arous, 71, a former karate coach who migrated to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod in the 1980s and now helps other French settle in.
“They get stipends there in France that are large enough to live on, but here it’s very bad,” he told Reuters. “The biggest problem is housing … and there is unemployment.”
French children often had adjustment problems at school, Arous added, and adults used to French manners winced at Israel’s rough and tumble ways.
France’s Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia doesn’t criticize departing congregants but told a memorial service in the capital’s Grand Synagogue: “France is our language, our dreams, our hope for the future.”
Standing outside the city morgue on Monday as victims’ bodies were taken away for burial in Israel, Andre Cohen said aliyah was always an option for Jews.
“Ideally it’s done during one’s lifetime,” said Cohen, an official of a Paris Jewish school. “For our deceased brothers, it’s terrible to return to Israel like this.”
View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=22809