From the City of Lights to the Festival of Lights
BEN GURION AIRPORT, Israel This year more French Jews immigrated to Israel than ever before. Many believe it could be just the beginning of an even greater wave of French immigration.
In this latest round, nearly 50 French Jews arrived at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport. These new arrivals are just the tip of the iceberg, with many more French Jews considering immigrating to Israel.
"We'll only be seeing a few dozen immigrants tonight, but throughout 2015 we have had the pleasure to welcome in Israel 8,000 immigrants from France," Jewish Agency spokesman Yigal Palmor told CBN News. "Last year, 2014, there were 7,200. There's a mass immigration to Israel from France."
Terror attacks in Paris this year - especially the attack on a Kosher delicatessen - along with rising anti-Semitism, spurred Jews in France to act.
"Speaking last week to two young French olim (new immigrants) who had just come, they said to us that there isn't a person in France - Jew in France - that isn't talking about coming to live in Israel to some extent," Sharon Handler with the Jewish Agency told CBN News.
Newly arrived French immigrant Dan Ammar told CBN News, "Right now, we can't live Judaism the way we would like to."
"We are careful not to wear our kippa (skullcap) in the streets. We continue living; you don't stop living, like in Israel they don't stop living with all the terror attacks. In Israel we will be able to live our Judaism the way we want."
Alexandra Schneider said fear is not the only reason for coming.
"The French Jews, yes, the French Jews are afraid, (but) it's not the only reason they want to come to Israel," Schneider told CBN News. "It's also about conviction because we think that for the Jews in France and for young people, Israel is the future."
Ammar led the lighting of the Hanukkah candles for the group that came from the City of Lights, Paris, to the Festival of Lights.
The new Israeli citizens also enjoyed sufganeot, a traditional donut served during the holiday. The immigrants - from toddlers to senior citizens - now start their new life in the land of Israel.
"Tonight we got to see the unfolding of the faithfulness of the God of Israel to His people as was promised to the prophet Isaiah," Nicole Yoder with the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem told CBN News. "He's going to bring His people back to Israel from the north, the south, the east and the west. And tonight we got to welcome people from the West."
"This is it. This is where the Jews belong," Handler said. "The Bible, this is where we're supposed to be. There's no question about it. This is the land of the Jews."