JNS.org, April 23, 2019
My trip to Paris to canvas the mood of French Jews began in the idyll of an Israeli-owned restaurant, Balagan, near the famed Louvre art museum. Emmanuelle Mary, a non-Jewish Parisian fashion and lifestyle marketing professional and frequent visitor to Israel (by virtue of her Israeli boyfriend), took me there. The bar had that inimitably cool Tel Aviv vibe with friendly bartenders shouting “Shalom,” even though they weren’t Jewish, as they handed out free chasers over sexy music. Food offerings fused Mediterranean-Jewish-French favorites: hummus, chopped liver, roasted eggplant, fattoush salad. If attitudes towards Israel and Jews could be judged by how full the place got with stylish Parisians, there should be no cause for concern about rising anti-Semitism in France.
Jewish media, Israeli politicians, and community leaders paint a picture of a France where Jews feel unsafe and are leaving in droves. Several incidents in recent years have triggered this perception: the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket attack that occurred in conjunction with the gunning massacre of staff at the Charlie Hebdo publication; the kidnapping, torture and murder of 23-year-old Ilan Halimi in 2016 by North African Muslims; the especially brutal murder of Sarah Halimi in her apartment in 2017; and the gruesome, allegedly anti-Semitic burning of an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, Mireille Knoll, in 2018. More recently, anti-Semites affiliated with the mysterious “yellow-vests movement” verbally attacked French Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut and, around the same time, 80 gravestones were desecratedwith swastikas in the Alsace region.
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