French Jewish men in the southern city of Marseille are being urged by some community leaders not to wear their yarmulkes in the wake of a terror attack on a Jewish teacher there Monday.
Tzvi Amar, head of the Marseille Israeli Consistoire, told the daily La Provence, “Not wearing the kippah can save lives and nothing is more important. It really hurts to reach that point but I don’t want anyone to die in Marseille because they have a kippah on their head.”
Amar acknowledged that many Jews would not agree with his views, but said he felt “exceptional measures are required “until better days.”
But French Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia has firmly countermanded that advice and is urging the Marseille’s Jews — and in fact, those of the entire country — to continue wearing yarmulkas in public.
“We should not give in to anything, we will continue to wear the kippah,” the chief rabbi told the Jews of France.
Likewise, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, general director of the European Jewish Association (EJA) urged French Jews on Tuesday to “remember the words of French Prime Minister Manuel Valls.”
In his former position as Interior Minister, Valls had said in response to calls from the far right to ban the kippah in deference to the country’s secular nature: “Every religious has its rites and traditions; the freedom of belief, it’s the freedom to wear a kippah, to eat kosher and to practice religious circumcision… secularism wasn’t created as a weapon against others. The Jews of France can wear with pride their kippah – it’s the responsibility of politicians not to respond to such provocations.”
Margolin reminded, “We now look to the French authorities to consolidate their important commitment with demonstrable actions to safeguard the right of French Jews to wear their identity with pride.”
The attorney for Binyamin Amsalem, stabbed Monday by the machete-wielding teenager in Marseille, had grim words for reporters. “I had the feeling [he] wanted to decapitate me,” Fabrice Labi said his client told him.
Amsalem fought off his attacker with his arms and legs, and a copy of the chumash (Torah) that he was carrying. The terrorist had stabbed Amsalem from behind in the back of the shoulder, and on the hand during the fight.
The 16-year-old teen terrorist later told investigators once he was in custody that when he is released, he intends to arm himself and go out to kill police. He claimed to be “acting for Da’esh” (ISIS).”
Monday’s attack was followed by a second attack on a French Jew, this one in the heavily Jewish Paris suburb of Créteil, about seven miles from the French capital.
The body of 73-year-old Alain Ghozland, a city councilor originally from Algeria, was found Tuesday morning in his apartment, beaten and riddled with stab wounds.
Ghozland’s brother called police when he did not show up for regular shacharit morning prayers at their synagogue. Police said that so far they have no leads in the case.