Jews mull leaving France over increasing anti-Semitic attacks

Isabel Malsang

Paris (AFP) - From the vicious rape of a woman because her partner is Jewish to this week's deadly shooting at a kosher supermarket, a soaring number of anti-Semitic attacks is making many Jews wonder if they should simply leave France.

"If I were 30, I would get out of France" and move to Israel, said Laurent S., who would not give his family name.

"I am neither practising nor a staunch believer, but I get the impression that for some people I'm still a 'yid', particularly after the latest attack," said the Jew of Polish origin in his fifties.

Four people were killed on Friday at a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris when Amedy Coulibaly stormed the store and took shoppers hostage.

His attack came two days after the Kouachi brothers massacred 12 people at Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine.

The deadliest violence to hit France has only served to further rattle a community, numbering between 500,000 to 600,000, which is already on edge.

It has also brought back memories of the March 2012 attacks in Toulouse -- when Islamist Mohamed Merah shot dead three children and a teacher at a Jewish school .

A supermarket manager in the north of Paris, who declined to be named, said she was living in fear, as the number of anti-Semitic attacks and threats have doubled between 2013 and 2014.

"Since we've had the Internet, insults have been raining on us and the hate is spreading," she said.

Many Jews have simply chosen to abandon the country.

Some 7,000 of them left France in 2014 and moved to Israel, twice as many as in 2013.

In the wake of Friday's attack, Israelis Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has urged more to relocate.

"To all the Jews of France, all the Jews of Europe, I would like to say that Israel is not just the place in whose direction you pray, the state of Israel is your home," he said in a statement on Saturday.

- Fighting enemies of Judaism -

Roger Cukierman, who heads an umbrella organisation grouping Jewish institutions in France, said he respected the decision by some to migrate.

But he said it was equally important that "we fight in France against all enemies of Judaism".

The grand rabbi of France, Haim Korsia, made the same point.

"It is out of the question to give in to terror. We need to stand our ground in dignity, and continue to live our lives as citizens and Jews," he said.

However, he said authorities must step up the fight against anti-Semitism.

Anxious to calm fears, France's leadership has pulled out all stops to reassure the Jewish community, the third biggest in the world after Israel and the United States.

"France without its Jews is not France," said Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

Ahead of a historic march in Paris on Sunday against terrorism, President Francois Hollande also met with Jewish leaders and promised to boost security for the community.

The president "told us that all schools, all synagogues will be protected, if necessary, not just by police, but by the army," said Cukierman.