Two brothers were heading to a synagogue on Saturday night in Créteil, in suburban Paris, when two men unleashed a vicious, unprovoked attack on them.
As the brothers, 19 and 23 years old, walked around 8.30pm they were reportedly attacked from behind by two North Africans for no apparent reason, other than the fact they were Jewish. One of the brothers said he was certain the attack was motivated by anti-Semitism.
“They (the attackers) were saying to each other, ‘hit harder!’ They didn’t even talk to us,” the unnamed victim told Europe 1 radio. “That was when we realized it was an anti-Semitic act. It was solely because we are Jews and we were wearing Kippahs (yarmulkes). Jews in France should beware.”
One of the attackers wielded a knuckleduster (brass knuckles) and the other used his firsts in the assault that left the older brother needing hospital treatment.
Just hours before, on Saturday afternoon, four people were shot to death at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels. The shooter, carrying a Kalashnikov rifle, walked calmly into the museum and opened fire in the reception area.
An Israeli couple in their 50s and a French woman were killed almost instantly in the shooting. Moments later the gunman escaped on foot and remains at large. A person detained in connection with the violence is no longer considered a suspect.
“Two years after the savage killings in Toulouse, here is another example of what hate and anti-Semitism can bring,” the European Jewish Congress wrote in a statement.
Though France is the home of the third largest Jewish population in the world it has seen a rise in recent years of anti-Semitic attacks. A recent poll found that one in three French people harbor anti-Jewish beliefs, though prominent Jewish experts argued the study had exaggerated the problem.
"I don't doubt that anti-Semitism exists in certain categories of the French population, and there is anti-Semitic violence in France, but France is not an anti-Semitic country," Marc Knobel, head of studies at France's Jewish umbrella organization CRIF told The Local.