Last year, 287 Jews immigrated to Israel from Belgium, which has a Jewish population of about 40,000. It was the highest figure recorded in a decade. From 2010 to 2015, an average of 234 Belgian Jews made aliyah annually — a 56 percent increase over the annual average of 133 new arrivals from Belgium in 2005-2009, according to Israeli government data.
Unlike French Jews, who tend to speak only one native language, Belgian Jews speak two and often three languages fluently. This could mean Belgian Jews have an easier time than their French counterparts immigrating to destinations that are not Israel.
Linda, Mark’s sister, moved to London and had two kids there with an Israel-born husband. She wants to leave Britain for Florida because she doesn’t feel safe in the United Kingdom either.
“Europe is doomed. The bad guys won,” she said. “I’m not going to raise my children in fear just to make a point.”
Her father is a French-born lawyer who was raised Catholic by his mother, a Holocaust survivor, before reconnecting to his Jewish roots. He told me his feeling of personal safety in Brussels was irreversibly shattered when robbers invaded his home a few years ago, tied up him and his wife, and beat him before robbing the couple.
“We may have been singled out by the robbers because we’re Jewish, but at this point, does it matter? It completely changes how you feel just walking down the street,” he said. He and his wife are preparing to join their two children in Florida.