(July 22, 2019 / JNS) Among news consumers, the first association one has with the State of Israel is often war and religious violence. However, for many Jews who choose to immigrate to Israel—or “make aliyah”—the Jewish state is considered to be the safest place to live freely and without concerns about anti-Semitism.
Such is the case for Rachel, 34, and Teddy Gnassia, 35, who are certain that their children will be safer living and going to Jewish school in Israel as opposed to their home country of France.
With their three children—Meir, 10; Liam, 7; and Lana, 3—the Gnassias moved to Israel this past week with another some 80 French Jews.
A day before their move to Netanya, a coastal city north of Tel Aviv known for having a large French expat community, Rachel told JNS that “Israel is already our home.”
She explained, “until now, France has done a lot for us—we grew up there—but today, things are different. In many French cities, it’s difficult as a Jew. I don’t want my children to grow up or stay there. I want to build a new future in the State of Israel. The future is not in France; it is in Israel. And now is the time to move when they are young.”
“I hope that after one year, we will be well-integrated and living like Israelis, rather than just French people in Israel.”
“In Israel, we will worry less about security,” Teddy agreed. “It’s a very complicated situation [in Europe] with anti-Semitism.”
He said to JNS, “We lived in a well-off neighborhood in France, which was like a cocoon, but lately, we have seen more and more anti-Semitism coming to the community, and we aren’t vaccinated for it.”
Although sending their kids to a Jewish school is important to them, the couple said they would be concerned about the children’s safety if they sent them to Jewish school in France.
“Outside of Jewish schools, anti-Semites paint graffiti on the buildings, and you can see the anti-Semitism in daily life,” said Teddy.
Additionally, he noted, anti-Semitism in France is entering into public life as well, adding that earlier this year, anti-Semitic protesters within the “yellow-vests” movement called French President Emmanuel Macron a “Jew’s bitch.”
‘Everything is for the children’
While acknowledging that there is sometimes also violence in Israel, Rachel noted that the difference is that “if something bad happens in Israel, everyone jumps to help each other and for the security of the kids. But [in France], there are people roaming the street looking to harm Jewish children.”
Even amid security considerations that influenced their move, Rachel maintained that she and Teddy decided to make aliyah for various other positive reasons. “My father is Israeli, and I grew up as a Zionist and traditional Jew, keeping kosher and Shabbat,” she said.
Rachel looks forward to reuniting with her parents, who immigrated to Israel from France 15 years ago, as well as enrolling her children in the Israeli education system, where they will learn Hebrew and Jewish subjects.
“For the studies, it will be better in Israel,” said Rachel, who maintained that in France, children grow up with a strict and limited mindset in terms of career selection. “In Israel, there is mental space,” she said, and the children will receive special help to ensure that they acclimate well and make new friends.
“My parents are happy about our aliyah, mostly for our children, because they understand that they will have a bright future in Israel,” said Teddy.
“Israel is the land of children; everything is for the children. People look after children in the street, and people love kids,” agreed Rachel.
Before the flight, Liam said he looked forward to being with his extended family but lamented, “it’s complicated because I don’t understand and speak Hebrew.”
Meir reported being very excited “to already be there,” and for the Israeli sea, also mentioning that the Hebrew will be a challenge.
“Israel is the land of children; everything is for children.”
“We expect various difficulties, including finding work, learning the language and understanding how everyday life works, seemingly small yet important things will also be different,” acknowledged Rachel. “Everything will be new, but we are making the first steps to be able to stay there forever, and I hope that we succeed.”
“The most important thing for the family will be to learn Hebrew as soon as possible to make sure the kids feel good,” said Teddy. “I hope that after one year, we will be well-integrated and living like Israelis, rather than just French people in Israel.”
At the arrival ceremony at the airport, the Gnassia family received their new identification cards in front of the audience of hundreds of new olim, dignitaries, supporters and family members. As a band played Israeli music in Hebrew, they sang and danced, and reunited with her family, as well as their new family: the people of Israel.