“There are many French Jews who emigrate to Israel, and afterwards many of them go back, because it’s too hard to make a living in Israel,” says Pnina Benjamin Kaufmann, who, along with her husband, found it difficult to requalify as a lawyer in Israel. “There are tons of people who have university degrees and professions and they find it’s impossible to work in the field, or the pay for other jobs is just too low.”
Theirs is a real but less celebrated side of the story of Jews leaving France for Israel, a trend that is predicted by the Jewish Agency, the organisation that encourages migration to Israel, to increase following the killing of four French Jews in an attack at a Paris supermarket last Friday. In 2014, 7,000 French émigrés arrived in Israel, twice the number from the year before. Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky estimates French immigration will more than double this year to 15,000. The Israeli government doesn’t keep track, however, of how many new immigrants ultimately leave. And while Israel gives a wide-ranging benefits package to its newcomers to enable an easy landing in the country, for some people it’s not enough.
“When you hear Sharansky come out and say they’ll get 100,000 French Jews coming to Israel,” or close to a fifth of the Jews living in France overall, “I say, but then what? How are they going to integrate all of those people?” Benjamin Kaufmann asks. “They need to improve the way they recognize foreign diplomas and open up the job market properly.”