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France's Jews live in fear despite all the soldiers
A message left at the site of the Hyper Cacher attack one year on. Photo: The Local

France's Jews live in fear despite all the soldiers

Ben McPartland · 9 Jan 2016, 08:42

Published: 09 Jan 2016 08:42 GMT+01:00
Updated: 09 Jan 2016 08:42 GMT+01:00

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On the afternoon of January 9th 2015 as the attention of France, and indeed most of the world, was focused on the stand-off between the Charlie Hebdo gunmen and police at a printworks north of Paris, Amedy Coulibaly calmly walked into a Jewish supermarket in Paris and opened fire with his Kalashnikov.
Three people died instantly in Coulibaly's rampage in the Hyper Cacher at Porte de Vincennes.
The gunman claimed a fourth victim later that Friday afternoon after one of his hostages had seized his gun but was unable to fire it.
Coulibaly was eventually killed by police before he could claim more lives, but the attack left France's Jewish community traumatised and not for the first time.
One year on, many still live in fear, despite thousands of soldiers having been deployed to offer almost round the clock protection to schools, shops and synagogues in a bid to reassure the community.
"The threat against Jewish people is everywhere but it feels worse in France," Sandy, who was on her way to the Hyper Cacher told The Local. "We know now we can be targeted at school or when we go shopping."
Johann Dorai, who hid from Coulibaly with other hostages in the store's freezer, told The Local: "We just don't feel safe now. We can't just go out like before and go back to normal."
Coulibaly's attack on supermarket shoppers came just three years after Mohamed Merah killed a rabbi and three Jewish children at point blank range outside their school in Toulouse.
Jean-Jacques, who runs the Jewish bakery next door to the supermarket, has found life has changed for the worse since that horrific afternoon when they were forced to throw themselves on the floor behind the counter as Coulibaly opened fire just metres away.
"We heard the shots and people shouting," he told The Local. "We got down on the floor and just waited. We stayed there for three to four hours. We knew people had been killed next door."
"It's been difficult to carry on, because we live in fear everyday that the same thing could happen again," he told The Local.
"When we look at customers now, we are more suspicious. If they are carrying backpacks, we might suspect them. It never used to be like that."
"I grew up with Muslims and there was never a problem about being Jewish. Now we feel the differences between people."
According to French government statistics, anti-Semitic acts have soared in recent years, with the number reported between January and May 2015 increasing 84 percent compared with the same period in 2014.
Anger towards Israel and its policy towards Palestinians occasionally tips over into indiscriminate anti-Jewish hatred.

In July 2014 pro-Palestinian marches turned violent in Paris, with looters destroying Jewish businesses and some rioters attempting to attack synagogues.

The growing insecurity has also pushed many to make "aliyah" and emigrate to Israel, with record departures in 2015 of 7,900 people, according to official figures. Although there are numerous reasons, more than just security fears, to explain the exodus.
Jean-Jacques laments that perhaps secular France simply has little love for its 500,000 strong Jewish population.
There is a feeling among his community that the Jewish victims of last year's attacks are forgotten behind the other events that occurred during those three days of bloodshed.
They point to the fact the January terrorist shootings are often simply referred to as the "Charlie Hebdo attacks" and the popular narrative of the bloodshed is that freedom of speech and the principle of secularism were the only targets rather than the country's Jewish community.
Story continues below…
"If it had only been the kosher store targeted, there would never have been that march on January 11th," said Jean-Jacques.
Sevrine, the wife of Johann Dorai, who hid from Coulibaly in the cold room of the supermarket said: "What happened at Charlie Hebdo was obviously very significant, but everyone speaks about it and no one speaks about the Hyper Cacher."
The French government however has tried, perhaps in vain, to reassure its Jewish population with words and actions.
"France, without its Jews is not France," said PM Manuel Valls while President François Hollande will attend a memorial service at the Hyper Cacher store on Saturday to mark the anniversary.
Both leaders have repeatedly said that the place for French Jews is at home in France.

To reassure the community, 700 soldiers have been deployed to patrol outside synagogues, schools and community centres.
But not many are convinced they would be effective in sparing lives if radicalised Islamist jihadists strike again.
"If someone wants to die they don't care if there are 50 soldiers in front of them," said Jean-Jacques.
"I hope it will get better but I don't believe it will. After what happened in November we can see that everyone is now a target not just Jewish people.

"All we can do is try not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And that's hard."

Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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