Monday, February 8, 2016

France: Being discreetly Jewish in Marseille and having "the same gut fear"

The BBC reports:
No photographs of the Gan Ami Jewish school in the sixth district of Marseille will accompany this article.
That is because if you appear at the school with a camera, you will be courteously but firmly asked to put it away.

A crocodile of youngsters on an excursion is accompanied by two teachers. The teachers have walkie-talkies. At pick-up time, six soldiers with machine guns stand by.

These are Israeli levels of security. At the nearby office of the CRIF (the official non-religious Jewish representation), a Jewish security team mans the entrance. More soldiers patrol outside the synagogue around the corner.

No-one thinks this is overkill. It is simply what life is like now for a Jew in urban France.

In Marseille, security antennae are especially sensitive after a knife attack two weeks ago on a Jewish teacher.[...]

At the Ougat patisserie - where mothers gather ahead of pick-up - Stephanie, Corinne and Deborah shared their anxieties.

"Every day I have the same gut fear," said Corinne. "It was never like this before. But now when I wave to the children on their way to school with their father, I feel the wrench in my stomach."

"In the last two years, the situation has deteriorated very badly," according to Deborah. "In my own country, I feel more and more unsafe.

"When I go to Auchan (supermarket), my kid sees these women covered head to foot in veils - and he's scared.

"We used to say it's just a tiny minority of Muslims. I am not so sure any more. The new generation are steeped in it. They are brought up to hate us. It's social media, I suppose."

Corinne says that "a few years ago - do you remember? - you used to be able to go around showing the Magen David (Star of David). No-one even noticed. Now who would dare?

"We all know Muslims. Of course we do. When I was a girl I had a Muslim friend who came on sleepovers. But now I look at the woman who helps in my house - who I have known for years - and I say to myself, 'What is she really thinking?'" [...]

For all of Marseille's 70,000 Jews, the question of whether or not to make "aliyah" (emigrate to Israel) is more and more acute. Everyone knows families who have gone.  But many Marseille Jews have been in France for generations. Those who came from North Africa in the 1960s do not particularly want to pick up and leave again.

For Michele Teboul, all the recent violence is encouraging a "repli sur soi".  The French expression means "falling back on one self" and is generally held to be a bad thing. The French ideal is a society without communities.

But against a growing physical threat, Marseille Jews feel the need to assert their identity. Maybe not in public - the kippa makes them a target - but privately.

"You know when I go to Israel, I let it all hang out. I drive on Saturdays, I don't keep kosher," says Michele Teboul. "It's because in Israel there is no need to say - look, I'm Jewish."

"But back here in Marseille, it is the opposite. Here we need to remember who we are."
 Read more.

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