Fewer Jews from France are making aliyah due to their strong connection with the French president.
Because of what is being called the Sarko effect in Paris, the strong connection between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and many French Jews, end of the year figures show that about 250 fewer Jews made aliyah in 2007 from France than in 2006, when just over 3000 people moved to Israel.
France has a Jewish population of about 600,000, the largest in Europe.
But the Jewish Agency’s White and Blue study program in Israel for French high school students is as strong as ever.
Students spend a week in Israel, visiting universities and yeshivas, and touring, with a focus on Jewish and Israeli culture. The goal is for students to decide to attend university in Israel and eventually to make aliyah.
According to the Jewish Agency education department director in Paris, Yossi Haklai, some 730 17-18 year olds from private Jewish schools have left or are leaving on a number of flights to Israel this week, and 120 more students from French public high schools will leave next week, a total of 850 participants.
Because of financial constraints in Jerusalem whose details Haklai did not reveal, the budget for the study in Israel program has been cut by the Jewish Agency. In 2006, 1000 students particpated, 150 more than this year. The Jewish Agency pays part of the cost, the French AMI program pays part and parents supply the remainder.