Why are so many Jews leaving France?
Suddenly two police motorcycles roar down Avenue Jean Jaurès. Not that this is anything special in Paris these days, the city is currently teeming with police officers. And next door, in the park, there is a large demonstration, which is why there is even more contingent in the surrounding streets. The policemen on the avenue are still attracting attention, because they have drawn their pistols and are driving one-handed across the avenue. Then they turn into rue Armand Carrel.
Shortly afterwards, around 40 heavily armed forces are standing there in front of a corner building that houses a synagogue. Neighbors called them because they wanted to hear gunshots. Inside are 60 believers who hold their worship there.
Neighbors come out onto the street. Two women are crying, their families are over in the synagogue. Both say they are determined to leave France. "How should we still live here? You can't protect us," says one of them, "I haven't sent my children to school for four days."
"I've had a gun for two years"
The other is scrolling on her phone to a photo that was posted on her Facebook account a few weeks ago. You can see piles of corpses from a concentration camp. Under the picture it says: "Only a dead Jew is a good Jew." She says: "I'm French, I was born here 53 years ago. My grandfather died for France in 1918." Literally she says: Il est mort pour la patrie, he died for the homeland.
"Home!" Shouts an indignant man with a kippah on his head. "What kind of home is it if we can no longer hold our services here?" He is alluding to the instructions of the police after the hostage-taking in the kosher supermarket the day before, in which four Jews were shot: no services to be held in the synagogues on this Saturday. This has not happened since World War II. The man, his name is Daniel and is 43 years old, says he only knows one thing: "We have to leave France and Europe. We are hated. We are fair game. I've had a gun for two years."
7,000 Jews left France last year and went to Israel. More than ever before. In 2013 there were about half as many. In addition to these 7,000, there are many hundreds who have moved to the USA, Canada or Australia. Even if one takes into account that France has the largest Jewish community in Europe with 500,000 believers; even if one can put into perspective that some of them are turning their backs on France because of the economic crisis; even if you consider that so far a third of those who left came back at some point: the number 7,000 is still frightening.
The political scientist Nonna Mayer said before the attacks that the doubling should be taken "politically very seriously." Since the beginning of the second Intifada in 2000, she has noted "a continuous increase in threats and acts of violence against Jews".
Jews who wear the kippah are insulted and spat at in the street, stones are thrown at school buses, and shops are devastated. Statistics from the French Interior Ministry show that almost half of all acts classified as racist are directed against Jews - and that with a population of less than one percent.
Since December 22, there have been four smaller attacks within a kilometer of the synagogue on Rue Armand Carrel, which has just been secured: a printer, a synagogue and a kosher restaurant were shot at and a fire was started in a community center.
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