French Jews making aliyah go from one conflict zone to another.
In a conference room at the Ramada Renaissance hotel on the western edge of Jerusalem, a group of 60 French Jews are about to become Israelis. They sit in softly cushioned metal-framed chairs set in two rows across the red-and-gold hotel carpeting. At the front of the room, delegates from the Jewish Agency stand before a dark blue table arranged with ID cards and a stack of heart-shaped pink chocolate boxes. A thin, dark-haired woman in a grey minidress holds a microphone and calls out the names of these new Israelis, serious-looking Orthodox families, retired couples on their way to the Francophone beach communities of Netanya and Ashdod, and twentysomethings headed for Tel Aviv. As they take their bounty, the new citizens pose for photos and thank their delegates, kissing them once on each cheek. Everyone stands for “Hatikva,” Israel’s national anthem. As she sings along, Nora De Pas, a girl I met yesterday, puts an arm around my shoulder, linking me to a chain of people who were strangers a week ago.