French Jews have become a focal point for the "Yellow Vest" protests across France, with an increase in anti-Semitism by demonstrators. In recent days, the Jewish community has reported numerous anti-Semitic videos, graffiti and actual threats appearing in central locations and on social media.
Last Saturday, the Chabad House on the Champs-Elysées Boulevard temporarily closed its doors for the first time due to safety concerns. The Chabad House issued a message saying that "for the first time, the Chabad House will not open on Shabbat morning; the police do not have the situation under control and today is a very dangerous day."
At another synagogue in the city, emails were sent to members of the community before Shabbat, warning of the riots. "In the Eli Dray synagogue they recommended us not to conduct services in the morning," said Tova and Yehoshua Nagler who were staying in the city for Shabbat. "The caretaker announced that anyone who nevertheless wants to go will only be able to enter until nine in the morning, and take into account that the synagogue will remain closed until evening because the gates will be closed from inside, so they asked people who come to pray to bring food along."
'The Jews are pulling the strings'
On Route A6, the main artery between Paris and Marseilles, a huge banner was hung on a bridge, accusing Jews of controlling French President Emmanuel Macron. The banner read: "Macron is a whore of the Jews." Social networks have also become an arena for spreading anti-Semitic expression. Thus, for example, a message circulated by an anonymous source wearing a mask: "It was the rich Jews who brought Macron to power so that he would be their puppet and they are pulling the strings. The Jews are responsible for the lowering of taxes on the rich and for the whole financial situation."
In another video, an activist from the "Yellow Vests" invited demonstrators to come to a Chabad Hanukkah candle lighting, saying: "The Jewish people celebrate while the French have nothing to eat." The anti-Semitic French entertainer Dieudonné M'bala M'bala and his admirers joined the demonstrators and gave the Nazi salute.
A video circulated on the social networks of French musician Stephen Ballet, who lives in Istanbul, inciting protesters to "understand that the real enemy is the Jews." Ballet, an esteemed musician with a racist reputation, last week uploaded a YouTube video which garnered 36,000 views before it was blocked. In the video, Ballet claims that lighting Hanukkah candles in front of the Eiffel Tower "while the French are dying of hunger" is a deliberate provocation by Jews against the French people. He also expressed regret that he could not come and "say hello" to the Jews who lit the candles.
An increase in number of French Jews wishing to emigrate
The International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which helps Jews immigrate to Israel, noted that following the events in France there has been a surge in the number of Jews interested in immigrating to Israel. Uriel Saada, head of the France Desk at the Fellowship, said that he received dozens of requests from Jewish families interested in immigrating to Israel.
"Only last Friday I received about ten phone calls, which is very rare because usually they do not call at all on Fridays," he said. According to Saada, since police forces in Paris are occupied with the riots and attempts to restore order, the Jews began to secure the synagogues themselves, and even warned the weekend that it would be better not to bring children to prayers.
He also noted that the trend of Jewish families planning to immigrate to Israel is increasing. "As long as the activists do not accept what they are demanding — raising the minimum wage — the situation will continue and may even escalate. I do not think that everyone will rush in and make this move, but there is no visible end to this protest."
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, president of the Fellowship, said: "Anti-Semitism in France has become widespread and very blatant in recent years, and the authorities are still acting feebly against it. Due to the situation, we are prepared with the necessary resources to assist any Jew who wishes to immigrate to Israel through us and be successfully absorbed in Israel.
"We are also working in France and throughout Europe to secure Jewish institutions. I hope that the European leadership will succeed in its efforts to eradicate anti-Semitism, but until then it is important that we all stand guard."