Three Jews Attacked on Their Way to Shul in Marseilles

A Rabbi who was attacked along with his son and another Jew last Shabbos in Marseilles disputed initial reports that the assailant was mentally unstable. His claim, made in an interview with Actualité Juive, a French Jewish publication, paints the incident as yet another disturbing example of the string of violence against French Jews.

“It’s because my son and I have beards and hats that he attacked us … he was not crazy,” said the Rabbi. Out of concern for their privacy, Hamodia has not published the names of any of the three men.

The Rabbi and his son were on their way to Shachris at Minchat Chalom, a shul on the city’s Rue Dragon, at approximately 7:30 a.m. when they were accosted by an Arabic-looking man in his 30s shouting anti-Semitic slurs. He soon turned violent and began to assault them. Another Jew, who was on his way to the same shul, attempted to intervene; the assailant then produced a knife and stabbed him.

Xavier Nataf, a member of the Jewish community of Marseilles, confirmed to Hamodia that contrary to initial reports, the victim’s wounds were considered light and that he has been released from the hospital. The Rabbi and his son were not seriously injured.

The attacker, whose identity has not been made public, was arrested. Reports at the time said that he was strongly intoxicated at the time of arrest, and some reports claimed that he was mentally ill.

The Rabbi concurred that the assailant appeared to be inebriated, but maintained that he was mentally sound. He added that several bystanders had helped after the fact, but that he was disturbed by their inaction as the attack was underway.

Anti-Semitic incidents have been on the rise in France for several years.

A number of anti-Israel demonstrations during the 2014 Gaza conflict resulted in several acts of violence and the proliferation of anti-Semitic rhetoric. The murder of four Jews in a kosher supermarket last winter moved the government to stronger actions to protect its Jews and their institutions. Now, rising tensions in Israel are again causing increased concern.

“Unfortunately, this is an additional act in an already unstable environment,” Simone Rodan Benzaquen, Paris Director of the American Jewish Committee, told Hamodia, “another layer in the situation that is keeping Jews in France from feeling secure.” On the question of whether security would be heightened in the wake of this incident, she said that “not much more can be done.”

Marseilles is home to some 80,000 Jews, making it the third-largest Jewish population center in Europe.

“It is scary, but it is more or less business as usual for us; it’s our daily life. I have spoken to countless people over the last few days and nobody mentioned this attack,” Laurent Munich, founder and director of French-Jewish media organ Akdem, told Hamodia.

He added that he felt it was “a mistake” to associate this incident with the current spate of violence in Israel, saying that only a study of trends over the coming weeks would show if tensions there “have really had any effect” on the situation in France.