Jews should not wear kippahs (skullcaps) in the streets of Marseille, the religious head of the Marseille Jewish community warned on Tuesday. The announcement came a day after a Jewish teacher wearing the traditional head covering was attacked by a Muslim teenager with a machete.
The teacher was on his way to work at the Franco-Hebraic Institute in southern Marseille when the teenaged struck him with a machete before fleeing. Police caught the attacker, a Turkish citizen of Kurdish origin, about 10 minutes later.
The attack occurred in broad daylight, in front of witnesses, said the police. The Jewish teacher was lightly wounded on his hand and his back.
Police Chief Laurent Nunez called it a “clearly anti-Semitic act”.
Once in custody, the assailant told police that he had attacked the teacher in support of the Islamic State, and was “ashamed” that he was not able to kill his victim.
On Wednesday, Rabbi Zvi Ammar, the head of the Jewish community in Marseille, made a statement saying that Jews should avoid wearing kippahs in public. “Not wearing the kippah can save lives and nothing is more important,” Ammar told the French newspaper La Provence.
“It really hurts to reach that point, but I don’t want anyone to die in Marseille because they have a kippah on their head,” he added.
He said that Jews are attacked and threatened because they are identifiable as Jews, and while the community would do everything possible to ensure the safety of its members, “you can’t assign a policeman or a soldier to every Jew.”
The rabbi said that he, too, would abide by his ruling. “On Saturday, for the first time in my life, I will not be wearing the kippah to the synagogue,” he said.
However, France’s Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia took the opposite position, telling Jews to continue wearing their kippahs in public in order to form a “united front.” Similarly, Roger Cukierman, the chairman of CRIF, an umbrella organization representing French Jewry, said that not to wear a kippah would convey a “defeatist attitude.”
Anti-semitic acts have been on the rise in France in recent years, leading record-breaking numbers of French Jews to emigrate to Israel.