Parisian Jews: Anti-Semitism on the rise
On three-year anniversary of murder of 23-year-old French Jew Ilan Halimi, community members say situation only worsened, with racially motivated incidents occurring almost every day. Michael Benhamou, who was attacked last month, plans to immigrate to Israel, says 'there's nothing left for us here'
Friday marked three years since the horrendous murder of 23-year-old Parisian Jew Ilan Halimi, which was apparently motivated by anti-Semitism, and it seems, that in the time that has passed, not much has changed for the Jews in France.
"Things just keep getting worse," said the president of one of Paris' major Jewish communities Serj Ben-Haim. "Ilan's murder has become a symbol, and we will never forget it, but anti-Semitism just continues to rise.
"Almost every day we witness severe racially motivated incidents, and tension has only intensified after the operation in Gaza."
According to Ben-Haim, it's not easy being a Jew living in Paris these days.
"We don't take the train after 7 pm, we wear a skullcap only under a hat, and our youths don't wander the streets late at night anymore," Ben-Haim said. "Just a month and a half ago there was an attack on Michael Benhamou".
The attack on Benhamou occurred in the Parisian metro while he was on his way home. "Three Arab-looking men jumped on me, called me a 'fucking Jew' and said they would kill me," he recounted.
"Before I even got the chance to respond, they attacked me, broke my nose and beat me all over," he added. Benhamou consequently spent four days in hospital with fractures in his face. The assailants fled the scene and police found no trace of them.
'No place for Jews in France'Benhamou said he has not been the same since the incident. "It's a lifetime trauma. I haven't been back to work since then because it's hard for me to breath. I'm still afraid to walk around alone, and I do not plan on taking the metro anymore.
"They know me, they know where I live. Sometimes I still fear I am being followed in the street."
According to Benhamou, members of the Jewish community in France cannot rely on anyone but themselves. "We should look after ourselves; we can't count on the police. Nothing has changed here since Ilan's murder.
"There is no place for Jews in France; we can't keep living here with these acts of barbarism. I already told my girlfriend that we are going to make aliyah. There's nothing left for us here, I want my child to be a sabra."
And these are not just empty words; Benhamou was already holding a plane ticket to Israel in his hands. "Next month I am traveling to search for an apartment for sale in Bat Yam."
In about one month's time the trial of Halimi's murderer will open, and members of the Jewish community have been asked to keep a low profile.
"Police warned us to be wary of riots, especially on the part of members of the African community in France," said Ben-Haim.
"We are preparing for the worst. Unfortunately, Halimi's murder probably won't be the last."