France for the first time has become the country with the highest numbers of aliyah (immigration to Israel), according to the French office of the Jewish Agency for Israel on Friday.
“France is today the leading country for Jewish emigration to Israel. It has never been before,” said Ariel Kandel, who heads the French office of the agency.
Kandel cited figures from the Israeli Ministry of Immigrant Absorption showing that, as of August 31, a total of 4,566 Jews had left France for Israel this year.
The figure well outpaced Ukraine, which came in at second with 3,252 immigrants. Ukraine has been the site of great unrest since tensions flared in May, with violence often targeting the local Jewish community.
Coming in third was Russia with 2,632 new immigrants, and the United States at 2,213.
“We will get close to 6,000 departures from France in 2014,” added Kandel. The estimation supports earlier figures by the Jewish Agency which projected that over 5,000 Jews, a full 1% of the French Jewish community, is expected to move to Israel by the end of 2014.
Kandel cited a “climate of anti-Semitism that is losing its taboo” as well as economic difficulties in France, which is suffering from zero growth and record high unemployment, as being the prime causes for the skyrocketing immigration.
“In the Western or free world, we’ve never seen one percent of the Jewish community emigrating to Israel,” added Kandel.
The anti-Semitism rearing its head in France has recently broken all previous levels of proportion, with numerous physical attacks and a recent planned terrorist bombing on a synagogue in Lyon that was foiled last week.
The anti-Semitism has flared particularly intensely during Operation Protective Edge, with violent protests in Paris. In a similar incident, hundreds of Muslim extremists attacked a major synagogue in Paris, provoking clashes with Jewish youths who rushed to defend the site and worshippers trapped inside.
A World Zionist Organization study in August found that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the world jumped 383% in July as compared to the same month the previous year, with Europe showing a 436% increase.