Skip to comments.French anti-Semitism has Jews heading for Israel, hiding religion
Posted on 01/09/2003 4:56:51 PM PST by Nachum
PARIS - Jewish parents tell their sons not to wear yarmulkes. A rabbi is stabbed while preparing for a Sabbath service. Elderly women are frisked before entering synagogues - just in case.
As the stresses of being Jewish in France multiply, some feel it safer to hide their religion. Others have decided the only solution is to pack up and leave.
Statistics released this week by the Jewish Agency, the body that arranges immigration to Israel, show that 2,326 French Jews emigrated to Israel in 2002, more than double the number of a year earlier.
French arrivals were a mere 6.7 percent of the total, but it represented the largest percentage of French immigrants to Israel since 1972. At that time, Israel had quadrupled its territory from the 1967 Six Day War and Jews flocked there full of hope.
Today, their reasons for going are different. In synagogues and at Jewish gatherings, people say they are afraid and fed up. Though the new conservative government has loudly condemned recent attacks, many wonder if France's leaders are committed to fighting anti-Semitism.
"In Israel, at least we know the government is on our side," said Stephanie Ohana, a 34-year-old Parisian Jew, at a prayer service this week for her rabbi, who was injured in a stabbing. "It's paradoxical, isn't it? But we have the feeling we'd be safer in Israel."
Last Friday's knifing of Rabbi Gabriel Farhi stunned France. It came after a relative lull in anti-Semitic attacks that coincided with violence in the Middle East.
It started with a menacing letter the morning of the attack that said: "We want the skin of Rabbi Gabriel Farhi and will avenge the blood of our Palestinian brothers," according to the Liberal Jewish Movement of France, a group founded by Farhi's father.
Later that day, Farhi was preparing for Friday night services when the synagogue doorbell rang. As he opened the door, he says, an attacker in a motorcycle helmet lunged forward with a knife, shouted "God is great!" in Arabic and fled. The man has not been caught.
Farhi, 34, a leading figure in France's liberal Jewish community, was slightly injured and released from the hospital the same day. Then, on Monday, his car was torched in his apartment parking lot.
"I want to believe that this was an isolated act," Farhi said, "and not the prelude to other attacks and a new wave of anti-Semitism."
At an ecumenical prayer service held in support of Farhi at his Paris synagogue this week, the turnout was impressive. Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders attended, along with many political leaders. Four former prime ministers: Lionel Jospin, Alain Juppe, Edouard Balladur and Laurent Fabius, sat beside each other wearing yarmulkes, the traditional Jewish skull cap.
France's tough new law-and-order interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, also attended. Sarkozy, who has launched a sweeping anti-crime campaign, guaranteed new measures to prevent future attacks, Farhi said.
"It's clear that the government is listening better now," Farhi said, adding that he wanted to see results. "I'm waiting for concrete measures."
Authorities increased security at Jewish religious sites last year, following a wave of attacks at synagogues, Jewish schools and cemeteries. In the most serious case, a synagogue in southern Marseille was burned to the ground.
But Farhi and others say police presence and metal detectors alone are not the answer. Asked what needs to be done, he replied: "Perhaps stricter laws. Perhaps some more concern, I would say, from the police and from the government."
Last spring, French President Jacques Chirac insisted there was no anti-Semitism in France even as Jewish groups placed the number of anti-Jewish attacks at the highest level since World War II.
Of late, he has taken a tougher tone.
"There is no room in our country for anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia or for manifestations of religious intolerance," Chirac wrote in a letter to the rabbi cited by Le Monde newspaper.
France is home to an estimated 600,000 Jews - the largest Jewish community in western Europe - and one of the continent's largest Muslim populations. Islam is France's second-largest religion after Roman Catholicism.
Jews find themselves taking pains to hide their identity in public.
"My son goes to a Jewish school," said Francis Lentschner, vice president of the liberal Jewish movement. "He can wear his kippah (yarmulke) in school. But I prefer him not to wear one outside."
Ohana wears a Hebrew letter on a gold chain around her neck. Lately, she said, she keeps it tucked inside her collar.
"It hurts. It really does," she said. "We're starting to hide that we're Jewish."
Europe has an affinity for national socialism. And when it unites into a big conglomerate, socialist EU some day, it will become "EU socialist", that is, national socialist.
Their day of socialist failure will come, and the Jews will be the target.
I'd leave Europe for Israel or the U.S.
No place else.
Well when labour is not in power anyway.
August Bebel (not Jewish) calls anti-Semitism the socialism of fools.
I guess are plenty of fools in Europe.
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