Security forces keep vigil in front of a Yeshiva near Rue des Rosiers in Paris, on Jan. 12. Security has been reinforced in Jewish areas of the capital after the terror attack at the Hyper Casher grocery store that left four Jews dead. File Photo by Maya Vidon-White/UPI | License Photo
PARIS, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- With violent anti-Semitism on the rise in France, more French Jews are taking up Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's invitation to immigrate.
Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel and a former Soviet dissident, said in an interview with Die Welt that some French Jews would rather face rocket attacks in Israel than live under the fear of anti-Semitism in France.
Sharansky said he was traveling on a plane last summer with French Jews immigrating to Israel. After receiving instructions on how to react to rocket attacks, Sharansky said he asked some passengers if they were afraid.
"They answered me: 'No, in France we had fear. That's over with here; we don't have to hide'," he said.
Israel's cabinet approved a $46 million budget on Sunday to finance the cost of an expected influx of immigrants from Europe to Israel. More than 15,000 are expected to immigrate from France in 2015.
The Ministry of Immigration Absorption in Israel had a record 6,658 Jews immigrating from France to Israel last year. Last month, there were almost 2,000 immigration petitions from France.
After the January terrorist attacks in Paris on satirical French magazine Charlie Hebdo and on a kosher market where four Jewish men were killed, Netanyahu reached out.
"We are telling our Jewish brothers and sisters that Israel is your home," Netanyahu said.
Sharansky said hostility toward Jews in parts of Paris has gotten so bad it can be dangerous to walk around wearing a kippah, also known as a yarmulke.
"The threat here in Israel is different. Here, one can fight for his home," he said. "In Europe, on the other hand, especially in France, the feeling is becoming stronger and stronger among Jews that they don't have a home there anymore."
Israeli media outlet NRG recently released a video of reporter Zvika Klein being harassed walking the streets of Paris wearing a kippah.
People spat at the sight of him, referred to him as "Jew" while following him and called him "homo."
The Anti-Defamation League's study on anti-Semitism, known as the ADL Global 100 index, documents attitudes and opinions toward Jews in more than 100 countries.
About 37 percent of people in France harbored anti-Semitic sentiments, according to the survey, taken last year. In Western Europe, France is second to Greece, where 69 percent of people had anti-Semitic sentiments.
Spain is third with an index score of 29 percent and Sweden ranked the lowest with an index score of 4 percent.
Participants in the survey were asked to respond whether they agree or disagree to 11 statements, including whether Jews have too much power in financial markets, whether they are responsible for most of the world's wars, and whether they have too much control over the U.S. government.
The United States had an index score of 9 percent.
After a gunman killed a Jewish security guard during Saturday's attacks in Copenhagen, Netanyahu iterated his suggestion that Jews move to Israel.
But Chief Rabbi of Copenhagen Jan Melchior disagreed.
"We will not let terror dictate our lives," he said. "We will not. We will continue living as Jews here in Denmark and everywhere else in the world."
Jewish leaders throughout Europe have echoed those sentiments, suggesting leaving would be surrendering to terrorism.
In France, the Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions recently reported that number of violent anti-Semitic acts had doubled in 2014 to 851,241.
During the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, a firebomb was thrown at a synagogue near Paris.
Days before, a 17-year-old Jewish girl was attacked by a man in his 20s.
"Dirty Jewess, inshallah [God willing] you will die," the man shouted as he doused her face with pepper spray.
On Sunday, a Jewish graveyard in the French town of Sarre-Union was desecrated. More than 300 tombstones were opened, displaced or spray-painted.
France has the third-largest population of Jews in the world with about 475,000, making up 0.74 percent of the entire French population, according to the Jewish Virtual Library.
French President Francois Hollande, imploring Jews to stay, has promised to protect them from anti-Semitism.
"You, French people of the Jewish faith, your place is here, in your home," Hollande said in a speech last month. "France is your country."