The exodus is gathering strength. Jews are leaving countries where they are being persecuted–again.
Ohana says that French Jews actually leave for a variety of reasons that include, but are not limited to, intolerance. “There are other motivations…to pursue better opportunities in respect to a society that no longer allows them to think big.” In other words: it’s France itself that has become weak.
What most New York transplants have in common is that they attended the public schools, formed by the “secular state,” but they have realized that in the past 5-6 years that it has changed because of the rampant religious controversies.
Aharon, a designer in a start-up says the tension “forces you to walk with your head down, put a hat on to conceal the kippah.” He says police too often classify attacks as simple robberies or assaults, rather than hate crimes, underplaying the extent of anti-Semitism.
Even more ironic: The French Jewish community is mostly made up of Jews that were forced to flee Arab nations after the founding of Israel.
More than 80% of the almost 600,000 French Jews — France is the second highest community, apart from the US, outside of Israel — come from Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. Sephardic families who had spent centuries in coexistance with Muslims were forced to leave the Maghreb because of Arabic pogroms in the 1950s and ‘60s and found in France an accord between monotheistic faiths. “The symptoms of Muslim intolerance against us began before 2002- adds Daniel, a French bank worker in Manhattan- but the second Intifada made the atmosphere asphyxiating”. “The killing of Ilan Halimi, 23, in February 2006 was the first shock. Then others followed suit,” explains David, father of two, from the Parisian suburb of Les Lilas. “When I was a school boy, 20% of the residents were Jewish, now there’s almost none of them still there.”
Venezuela has lost a significant number of Jews thanks to Hugo Chavez.
Over the past 14 years, Venezuelan Jews have been leaving the country in droves. When Chavez was elected in 1999, there were more than 20,000 Jews living in Venezuela. Today the community is estimated to have fallen to less than half that number.
Jews were not the only ones to take flight from the Chavez regime. Hundreds of thousands of upper- and middle-class Venezuelans left during the Chavez years, seeking to escape Venezuela’s anti-business climate, the government’s nationalization of private companies, economic crises and a soaring crime rate. Jews left for many of the same reasons, with anti-Semitism by all accounts taking a back seat to concerns for economic and physical security.
I find it telling that every story seems to insist that Jews are not leaving because of anti-Semitism, that it’s only a part of the reason. No, really, it’s just a small part. And yet–they leave. Cozying up to Iran, demonizing the Venezeulan Jewish community… just a coincidence.
In Turkey, it’s outright anti-Semitism driving away Turkey’s Jews.
When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey last week declared Zionism a “crime against humanity,” Turkish Jews had fresh reason to worry about the Islamist direction of Mr. Erdogan’s rule in the once proudly secular state. His statement at a United Nations gathering in Vienna follows the government’s announcement in November that Turkey would prosecute in absentia four former Israeli military commanders for their role in a 2010 clash with a flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip that left nine Turks dead.
These have been head-spinning times for Turkey’s Jews, who constitute the largest such community in any Muslim country. Officially the Jewish population is 24,000, but Jewish leaders tell me the true number is closer to 14,000 as Jews have been leaving or sending their families abroad.
Once again, we see that it’s a seemingly irreversible trend.
In an Izmir high-rise apartment last year, I met a Jewish couple—a school principal and a commercial trader—whose forebears fled medieval Venice for Turkey. Both of their children now reside in America. After the couple’s generation passes, the wife told me with a sad certainty, “Turkey is finished for the Jews.”
The Jewish communities of Yemen are nearly gone. There is no longer a Jewish community in Iraq. Iran’s Jews remain only because they are forbidden by law to leave as a family unit. The whole sordid history of Jewish expulsion from Arab and Muslim countries can be read at the Jewish Virtual Library.
2500-year-old communities will soon be extinct, their synagogues knocked down or turned into museums for people to ooh and aah over the tolerance of Muslims during the Inquisition. The fact that Jews are no longer welcome in Islamic lands? Well, that’s their own fault. Dirty Zionists.