• France's news in English
Marseille synagogue becomes mosque as Jews move out
File photo of a French synagogue. Photo: Jean Pierre Muller/AFP

Marseille synagogue becomes mosque as Jews move out

The Local/AFP · 27 Apr 2016, 11:26

Published: 27 Apr 2016 11:26 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

The Or Thora synagogue has been bought by Al Badr, which already runs one small mosque on the same street, Saint Dominique in the first arrondissement.

However, the existing mosque is frequently full, with people forced to pray on the pavement, particularly during Friday prayers. Meanwhile Marseille's Jewish population has left the city centre for the suburbs in recent years, and the Or Thora synagogue sometimes has fewer than ten worshippers at services.

The sale is currently being reviewed by the city council and the new mosque is likely to open within months.

"For the past 20 years or so we have seen the shift of the Jewish community to other neighbourhoods," Zvi Ammar, President of the Marseille Israelite Consistory, said, adding that he viewed the sale "positively".

"We all have the same God, the main thing is for this to proceed in harmony," he said.

The site near the city's main rail station was built as Jews flocked to Marseille from Algeria after the north African country gained independence from France in 1962 following an eight-year war, he noted. Marseille's Jewish community is thriving, with Ammar pointing out that the number of synagogues had nearly doubled to 58 from 32 over the last three decades.

The city's 70,000 Jews make up one of France's - and Europe's - largest Jewish communities. Marseille's population of nearly two million also counts around 220,000 Muslims, of whom 70,000 are practising.

Marseille's Muslims are still awaiting the construction of a Grand Mosque, but the project promised by the city's mayor in 2001 is mired in financial woes as well as legal challenges by the far-right National Front. At an estimated cost of some 23 million euros ($26 million), the mosque would be France's largest if the project is finally achieved.

France is currently home to 2,500 mosques with another 300 under construction, however Muslim leaders argue that this number falls short of demand.

Last summer Dalil Boubakeur, Rector of the Grand Mosque in Paris, suggested that some of France’s 40,000 churches could be turned into mosques .

“It’s a delicate issue, but why not?” Boubakeur told Europe1 radio.

The idea which received some support from France’s Christian leaders, although ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy urged against it.

Story continues below…

However, the decision to transform a synagogue in Marseille into a mosque may not go down well as tensions between the Jewish and Muslim communities in Marseille have been high over recent months.

In January, the president of the Marseille Israelite Consistory, Zvi Ammar, said that Jews in the city should refrain from wearing the kippah, although France’s chief rabbi called on followers to ignore the call.

Last December, a Jewish teacher was stabbed in Marseille by assailants who shouted support for terror group Isis.


The Local/AFP (news.france@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
How life for expats in France has changed over the years
A market in Eymet, southwestern France. Photo: AFP

Foreigners in France explain how life has changed over the years.

London calling for Calais youths, but only a chosen few
Photo: AFP

Dozens of Calais minors are still hanging their hopes on help from the UK, but not all will be so lucky.

17 different ways to talk about sex in French
Photo: Helga Weber/Flickr

Fancy a quick run with the one-legged man?

Yikes! This is what a rat-infested French jail looks like
Photo: YouTube/France Bleu TV.

This video is not for sufferers of ratophobia (or musophobia as the condition is officially called).

France to allow Baby Jesus in Town Halls this Christmas
Photo: AFP

Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus are safe to go on display again this year, it seems.

National Front posts locations of migrants in French town
The National Front courts controversy. Photo: AFP

"Local tax payers have a right to know," says local far-right party chief.

Paris thieves use tear gas to steal €500,000 of watches
Photo: AFP

The thieves pretended to be couriers then threatened staff with tear gas to get the watches.

Bataclan survivor recounts attack in chilling drawings
Photo: BFMTV screengrab

One survivor has recounted the horrific night through illustrations.

Anger among French police grows as Hollande vows talks
French police demonstrate on the Champs Elysées. Photo: AFP

A fourth night of protests shows government efforts to ease anger among French police have been fruitless.

UK border must move back, says 'next French president'
Photo: AFP

If favourite Alain Juppé is elected, Britain and France are in for some difficult negotiations.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Why Toulouse is THE place to be in France right now
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Video: New homage to Paris shows the 'real side' of city
The 'most dangerous' animals you can find in France
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
Swap London fogs for Paris frogs: France woos the Brits
Anger after presenter kisses woman's breasts on live TV
Is France finally set for a cold winter this year?
IN PICS: The story of the 'ghost Metro stations' of Paris
How to make France's 'most-loved' dish: Magret de Canard
Welcome to the flipside: 'I'm not living the dream in France'
Do the French really still eat frogs' legs?
French 'delicacies' foreigners really find hard to stomach
French are the 'world's most pessimistic' about the future
Why the French should not be gloomy about the future
This is the most useful French lesson you will ever have. How to get angry
Why is there a giant clitoris in a field in southern France?
French pastry wars: Pain au chocolat versus chocolatine
Countdown: The ten dishes the French love the most
Expats or immigrants in France: Is there a difference?
How the French reinvented dozens of English words
The ups and downs of being both French and English
How Brexit vote has changed life for expats in France
Twelve French insults we'd love to have in English
What's on in France: Ten of the best events in October
jobs available