A record number of French Jews moved to Israel this year, an immigration official said on Thursday, citing anti-Semitic violence and economic insecurity in the European country as causes. France has the largest Jewish population in Europe, having grown by nearly half since World War Two to some 550,000. The community has been jarred by an increase in security threats and Islamist militant attacks such as January's gun rampage at a Paris kosher market that killed four Jews. Israel's quasi-governmental Jewish Agency, which encourages immigration, said some 7,900 French Jews had relocated to Israel in 2015, a 10 percent increase from the previous year. "Each has his or her reason, including the economic crisis, personal security, terrorist attacks, and, in some places and times, an anti-Jewish mood," agency spokesman Yigal Palmor said. Though not final, the immigration figure falls short of Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky's prediction after the kosher market attack following the Charlie Hebdo shootings in January that more than 10,000 French Jews would move to Israel this year. Palmor said wider Jewish immigration to Israel reached a 15-year high in 2015, with around 30,000 new arrivals. He noted a high number of arrivals from economically troubled Russia and civil war-torn Ukraine.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly has called for massive Jewish immigration to Israel from Europe after the terror attacks in France and Denmark. "Jews have been murdered again on European soil only because they were Jews and this wave of terrorist attacks, including murderous anti-Semitic attacks, is expected to continue," Netanyahu said at the beginning of a weekly cabinet meeting. However, European leaders and some Jewish groups slammed Netanyahu and said that the mass emigration calls are part of illegal settlement policy as Israel needs to fill the settlements with Jews after displacing Palestinians.
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