In France, wearing a kippa or a religious symbol has become a motive for attack. In 2012, Jews experienced a 58% increase in anti-Semitic violence, which culminated in the deaths of four Jews. Today, many are worried about their future in Europe.
It was a hate crime that sent shock waves throughout France. In March 2012, four Jews were killed outside a Jewish school by a radical Islamist Mohamed Merah, who has since become a hero to young Muslims.
Alain Bensimon, President of the Jewish Community of Garges:
"This isn’t the first time Jews have been murdered, or tortured simply because they’re Jewish. That was the case with Ilan Halimi a few years ago. The Jewish community has no future in France because it no longer feels safe.
I’m not saying that France is an anti-Semitic country, far from it, but I do find it strange that police are needed outside synagogues, kosher shops and restaurants, or that schools need police protection. That’s no way to live."
Jewish schools and synagogues are under tight security. But despite this heightened protection, the number of anti-Semitic incidents has risen by 58%, similar to the spike in 2009, the year of the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip.
Sammy Ghozlan, President of the National anti-Semitism Watchdog:
"The Palestinian cause is at the root of anti-Semitism. It’s the single source. Today something very serious has crept into society and is trying to enflame people’s opinions, and these bad people, this radical Islam is using the Palestinian cause to try and rally supporters and militants. This is the result we’ve seen with events in Toulouse."
Since the Toulouse attacks, the number of French Jews moving to Israel has gone up by 40%, a trend which if it continues will see up to 3000 French Jews leave France per year.
Ariel Kandel, President of the French Jewish Agency:
"There are several factors why Jews in France decide to move to Israel. First of all there’s an ideological reason, which is love for Israel itself. Secondly, there is, perhaps, a fear of anti-Semitism and at the same time young people are worried about their future. The economy’s not doing well. France has zero growth and this is a source of worry for many of them. Nevertheless, there’s an element of pragmatism in their decision to leave after having grown up in the West and in a big city, many French Jews tend to look for those same elements when they arrive in Israel."
Nearly ten years after Ariel Sharon called on France’s Jews to move to Israel to escape anti-Semitism, it seems that today more of them are deciding to do so, raising the question of whether or not Jewish emigration will have a positive or a negative impact on relations between Israelis and Palestinians.
It was a brutal attack on 4 Jews that alerted France of the dangers of anti-Semitism. But far from being an isolated incident, the Toulouse killings were merely a reflection of the problems faced by French Jews, some of whom are packing their bags and returning to Israel.
Christina Okello, JN1, Paris