Return of the Exiles
Jews have lived in France since at least Roman times. The first group of French Jews to return to Israel came almost a thousand years ago, in 1211 C.E. Known as the “300 Rabbis,” the group consisted of 300 Rabbis from England and France who traveled by foot to the Holy Land. Unlike the Crusaders, these Rabbis and their families traveled in peace to settle in the Land, not to conquer it.
Generations later, 25% of the French Jewish population was murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust. There was some post-Holocaust Aliyah, but it wasn’t substantial.
In the 1950s and 60s, France’s Jewish population permanently changed with the influx of 235,000 Jewish refugees from North African countries that had been colonies of France. Hundreds of thousands more North African Arab refugees also flooded into France, bringing the Jewish-Arab dynamic into Europe for the first time since medieval Spain.
The tension in France began to boil over in early 2000s, with a sharp increase in violent antisemitism. This dangerous trend has threatened the Jewish community for the last twenty years and led to the brutal murders of Holocaust survivors and Jewish children. Responding to these horrors, tens of thousands of French Jews have chosen to make Aliyah. Thousands more have bought homes in Israel, with plans to ultimately make Aliyah in the future.
As many as 250,000 French Jews are expected to move to Israel by 2030. The majority of French Jews who move to Israel are young, educated, from North African communities, and are religiously affiliated.
French Jews tend to settle in the Israeli cities of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and Netanya, where they have established vibrant communities and French-style cafes and bakeries. When Jews come back to Israel, they bring the good stuff with them!