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Hollande decries plight of France's Jews

January 13, 2016

After a recent attack on a Jewish teacher by a machete-wielding teenager, Jews in France are asking if they should openly express their identity. President Hollande has said no French Jews should have to hide.

Frankreich Marseille Jüdische Schule La Source nach Machtenangriff
Image: Getty Images/AFP/B. Langlois

An emotional debate over whether to choose security over expressing Jewish identity erupted across France on Wednesday. Following an Islamist attack on a Jewish teacher in Marseille, parents began to urge their sons to wear a baseball cap instead of a kippa, prompting President Francois Hollande to describe the situation as "intolerable."

On Monday, a teenage ethnic Kurd from Turkey inspired by the "Islamic State" (IS) terrorist group attacked 35-year-old Benjamin Amsellem with a machete. The boy later reportedly told judges he was "ashamed" he had not managed to kill the teacher.

The incident, followed by a string of violent anti-Semitic incidents in France, prompted the city's top Jewish leader, Zvi Ammar to call on Jewish men and boys to cease donning the yarmulke for a period of time.

"Unfortunately for us, we are targeted," Ammar said on Tuesday. "As soon as we are identified as Jewish we can be assaulted and even risk death."

Several national Jewish leaders however disagreed with Ammar's comments. Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia said although he understood Ammar's words came from an "understandable emotion," the Jewish community still "should not give an inch" to those who wish to terrorize them.

French President Hollande echoed Korsia's sentiment, saying that he found it "intolerable that in our country citizens should feel so upset and under assault because of their religious choice that they would conclude that they have to hide."

The 15-year-old appeared before a judge on Wednesday where he was charged with "attempted terrorist murder" and remanded into protective custody.

es/sms (AFP, dpa)