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Marseille anti-Semitic attacks spark debate over wearing skull caps

A string of anti-Semitic attacks in Marseille has raised questions over whether Jewish men and boys should wear their skullcaps. The city's Jewish leader Zvi Ammar has urged Jews not to wear a kippa "until better days."

Speaking to French daily "La Provence" on Tuesday, Zvi Ammar said he "didn't want anyone to die in Marseille because they have a kippa on their head."

"Not wearing the kippa can save lives and nothing is more important," he added.

"As soon as we are identified as Jewish, we can be assaulted and even risk death," Ammar said in separate comments to AFP news agency.

France's chief rabbi, Haim Korsia, rejected Ammar's call, however. "We should not give an inch, we should continue wearing the kippa," he told AFP news agency.

Roger Cukierman, head of France's umbrella group of Jewiah communities, CRIF, agreed with Korsia, saying that the call generated "a defeatist attitude."

Attack in name of 'Islamic State'

The debate on Tuesday came in light of a series of attacks on Jews in the southern French town. On Monday a teenager, armed with a machete and a knife, attacked and injured a teacher in Marseille who was wearing the traditional Jewish skull cap.

History teacher Benjamin Ansellem suffered from a slash to his shoulder and hand. The 35-year-old reportedly fell to the ground as he tried to fend off the attack using a Torah.

Authorities believe the 15-year-old Turkish Kurd, who claimed he acted in the name of the "Islamic State" (IS) militant group, was self-radicalized online.

France is home to the largest populations of both Jews and Muslims in Europe. 2015, saw record number of emigration to Israel with some 7,900 Jews making the move to the Middle East.

ksb/jil (Reuters, AFP)

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