“The French are our brothers. We understood that there was a need for assistance – and we took care of it,” said Minister Bennett.

By: United with Israel Staff

Young olim (immigrants) from France have encountered difficulties integrating into their adopted country in the past decade, prompting Minister of Education Naftali Bennett to create a new project, dubbed “Feel at Home.”

The program, launched on Wednesday, provides, for the first time, a focused response to the specific needs of young Olim from France, with the aim of increasing and easing their integration into Israeli society.

The project places emphasis on integrative activities for children born in Israel, which includes participation in after-school activities, projects promoting leadership and study enrichment centers.

The program, developed in cooperation with Qualita, the umbrella organization of French olim, will operate in the community centers of the three cities with the largest population of immigrants from France: Jerusalem, Netanya and Ashdod.

‘Aliyah is the Essence of Zionism’

Bennett noted that “the French are our brothers, who are an important part of the mosaic of Israeli society, and we must help them to cope with the challenges involved in moving from France to Israel, and that is exactly what we are doing.”

“Aliyah is the essence of Zionism,” he declared. “These are people who chose to emigrate from their homes and begin anew in the home of every Jew around the world – the State of Israel. This new program will ease the adaptation, and building a new routine, for a French family in Israel.”

He added that as Minister of Education and Minister of Diaspora Affairs, he sees strengthening ties with Jews all over the world as “a national mission, in which reaching out and embracing our brothers and sisters who choose to join Israeli society is extremely important.”

The key was to “identify the need, and instead of avoiding it, simply address it. This is important to both the French and the Israeli public, we are all one family,” he concluded.

Inseparable Part of Israeli Society

Aviad Friedman, chairman of the Association of Community Centers, said that “the families of Olim from France are an inseparable part of Israeli society, and we must make it as easy as possible for their integration into the community.”

Ariel Kandel, director of Qualita, said the program will cater to some 2,000 youth and children this year. They constitute about 80 percent of the target population among French Olim who encounter absorption difficulties, he added.

“The success of the integration of French immigrants into Israel is especially vital given the stated intention by around 200,000 French Jews – about 43 percent of the French Jewish community – of their desire to immigrate to Israel,” he stated.

In the past year, Israel has welcomed over 28,000 new immigrants. Some 3.5 million people have made Aliyah since 1948, making up 42 percent of the total population.

Earlier in the year, Israel chose an emblematic way to celebrate its 70th independence anniversary by welcoming 700 newcomers who arrived from France, Russia, Argentina and Brazil.

In 2018, over 70 years after the Holocaust, the world’s largest Jewish population lives in Israel. This figure represents 43 percent of world Jewry.

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Source: United with Israel