The relevant cliché this week is, “Like a canary in a coal mine,” because canaries are more sensitive to a lack of oxygen than people are. If the canaries keel over, the miners know they have to move quickly if they want to survive.

In terms of our history, our canaries are the Jews, as they have been favorite targets of oppression for thousands of years. But, though persecution usually starts with them, it rarely ends there.

And in the present case, Europe is the coal mine.

In the aftermath of the Islamist attack on the French satiric magazine Charlie Hebdo, another attack was made on a kosher market a few miles away, in the suburb of Saint-Mandé, where four patrons were murdered before their killer was slain by police.

It wasn’t in any sense a “random” attack, and it wasn’t the only jihadist assault on Jews recently in France, or in Europe. Other attacks include the murder of four people in a Jewish cultural museum in Belgium last year, and the murder of a teacher and three students at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012.

And these are added to incidents such as those recounted by Canadian columnist Mark Steyn in a Jan. 19 column headlined, “A Judenrein (Jew-cleansed) Europe”: “the Villiers-le-Bel schoolgirl brutally beaten by a gang jeering, ‘Jews must die’; the Paris disc-jockey who had his throat slit, his eyes gouged out, and his face ripped off by a neighbor who crowed, ‘I have killed my Jew’; the young Frenchman tortured to death over three weeks, while his family listened via phone to his howls of agony as his captors chanted from the Koran … .”

Some French Jews are saying that it is dangerous to commit the offense of “walking while Jewish” (being caught in public wearing a skullcap or a Star of David necklace).

And as Newsweek has reported, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director general of the Rabbinical Center of Europe and the European Jewish Association – “the largest federation of Jewish organizations and communities in Europe” – has asked that strict European gun control laws be amended to let Jews bear arms for their own defense.

The Washington Post reported Feb. 7 that the above incidents, and hundreds (if not thousands) more in nations from Britain to Sweden to Italy to Spain, has led many of Europe’s Jews to consider something they once widely rejected: emigration.

And while other countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are on the list of potential destinations, one country is the biggest draw: Israel, of course.

As the Post put it, “In homes, in shops and in synagogues guarded night and day by soldiers wielding assault rifles, conversations are dominated by an agonizing choice: stay in France and risk becoming the victim of the next attack by Islamic extremists, or leave behind a country and a community that Jews say they are proud to call home.

“The French government has scrambled to persuade them not to go, aware that if Jews see little future for themselves in Saint-Mandé – where Muslims, Christians and Jews have long lived in harmony – then there’s no chance for the European ideal of interfaith coexistence.

“And yet, for a rapidly rising number of Jews, here in Saint-Mandé and across France, the decision has already become clear. ‘The question is not will they leave or won’t they leave,’ said Alain Assouline, a prominent Saint-Mandé doctor and president of a Jewish community center. ‘The question has become when they will leave.’ ”

The Post reported that a group called The Jewish Agency, which encourages immigration to Israel, says about 2,000 French Jews had been emigrating annually to Israel for years, but in 2013 the number jumped to 3,400.

And last year, that number doubled to more than 7,000, “making France the leading contributor of immigrants to Israel and marking the first time that more than 1 percent of a Western nation’s Jewish population has left for Israel in a single year.”

Now, calls to the agency’s Paris office have more than tripled, and it predicts 15,000 French Jews will move to Israel this year.

While the French government has assigned 10,000 uniformed soldiers to guard “sensitive sites,” including Jewish stores, schools and synagogues, the Post reported that their presence is a reminder to Jews of their vulnerability, not their safety.

Assouline, who has two partners in his medical practice, one Catholic and one Muslim, told the Post, “Personally, I have faith in our community. I’m an optimist” who intends to stay.

“But whenever I say that, there’s always someone who reminds me, ‘In 1933, there were two types of Jews: the pessimists and the optimists. The pessimists left and went to the U.S. The optimists ended up in the death camps.’ ”

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance writer and speaker. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]