A week after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called on French Jews to immigrate to Israel, a group of 200 is heeding his call.
After months of preparation, Albert Amanou’s family will arrive on Wednesday, hoping to begin a new life in Kiryat Malachi. Amanou applauded Sharon’s comments and said the prime minister is welcome at his new home.
“He helped us keep our heads high in turbulent times,” said Amanou, in a phone interview from Paris.
Amanou will join his wife and six children in September, when he accompanies a youth group to the country.
While he appreciated Sharon’s comments, he said France’s rising anti-Semitism was not a big factor in his decision to make aliya. He said it has never been a problem and he has friends of many ethnic and religious backgrounds. Instead, it is the French government’s passivity towards anti-Semitism that brings him here.
“I’ve had the chance to travel around France. It’s a beautiful country, but there are some things I can’t accept,” he said, referring to violence against Jews and comments belittling the gravity of the Holocaust that are not addressed by authorities.
His decision was also spurred by a desire to raise his children in a Jewish setting, specifically for them to receive a Jewish education. He explained that private school taxes and finding an appropriate school can be cumbersome in Paris.
Alain Beruben, who will bring his family to Israel in August, said his children’s Jewish education is his reason for immigrating.
“[Israel] is our country, our land, where we can live our Judaism 100 percent,” he said.
Amanou said his wife and children are excited to arrive on Wednesday. He said the feeling in his house this week has been very powerful.
“We feel like Jews leaving Egypt,” quickly adding that he is not comparing slavery in Egypt to his comfortable life in France, but rather to the exciting arrival in Israel.
Both Amanou and Beruben said that while the security situation has made them somewhat apprehensive, they rely on Sharon’s government to protect them.
Amanou, who now works in construction and hopes to enter real estate when he arrives, said he does not expect anything from Israel.
“I want to give to Israel. I want to give my love, my work, and my life.”
Yitzhak and Rivka Zerbib arrived from Nice a year ago, and have now settled in Jerusalem’s Har Homa neighborhood. Upon their arrival, they changed their French names to Hebrew ones.
Zerbib said she and her family feel well-integrated and in a month or so will open their own business, a laundromat.
Rivka welcomes the new French immigrants, but reminds them that patience is necessary when making a move to Israel. “I support them and am sure they will find their way,” she said.
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