Jews are safer in Israel’s bunkers than in French ghettos

France is losing its Jews, who prefer a place where their children are free to live normal lives, where they are defended and can defend themselves.

Giulio Meotti

OpEds Otzar Hatorah school in Toulouse
Otzar Hatorah school in Toulouse
צילום: עצמי

Abdelghani Merah, the brother of the terrorist who, five years ago, killed a little girl, a rabbi and two of his children in front of Toulouse’s Jewish school Ozar Hatorah, is busy these days with a kind of “journey” of tolerance to preach against his brother’s deeds. That massacre was the first of a long series of anti-Semitic attacks, culminating in the attack at the supermarket Hyper Kasher in Paris.

But Merah’s victims, the Jewish community, is busy with another kind of “trip”. Le Figaro newspaper reported the data on the situation in the French city. 300 Jewish families have packed and left Toulouse since the killing spree. The French newspaper speaks openly of “exile”.

300 Jewish families have packed and left Toulouse since the killing spree. The French newspaper speaks openly of “exile”.
Jean-Michel Cohen was among the first to rush to the site of the massacre, where the Muslim extremist killed Jonathan Sandler, his two sons Gabriel and Arieh, and Myriam Monsonego. “The situation has become unbearable and I was afraid for my family”, he says today from Israel. “Toulouse is the French city most affected by departures”, says Marc Fridman, vice president of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in the Midi-Pyrenees. “It is a paradise for us”, says Cohen from Tel Aviv. “Here we are safe. My children walk to school. We have no concern for them. They are freer than in France”. His wife now works as educator in the city of Netanya, the “French Riviera” as it is called for its high number of immigrants from France.

Marc Fridman speaks of “a terrible sense of isolation and frustration after 2012. Only ten thousand people participated in the march for the Ozar HaTorah” school. The Jewish community of Toulouse then consisted of up to 20,000 people. Today only 10,000 Jews remain. Another bombing  could be the end for one of the cradles of French Judaism.

Jérôme left the outskirts of Toulouse to settle in the suburbs of Tel Aviv with his wife and two children. “It was no longer France, where I was born. One day I asked myself what future I wanted to give to my children and I decided to go to Israel”. Despite the threat of terror attacks and the hostility of neighboring countries, Jérôme feels safer in Israel than in France. “You get used to living with sirens and shelters”.

In the liberal synagogue of Toulouse, in the Saint-Cyprien district, the windows overlooking the courtyard are now closed. Not because of the sun, but to not allow anyone outside to see what happens in the school. “The school raised the walls to a height of four meters, topped with barbed wire and with military protection day and night”, says Marc Fridman. To avoid living in constant fear, some parents have enrolled their children in other private institutions.

It will be a darker and lonelier Europe when the last French Jew  packs and leaves. But I cannot blame them for feeling safer in Israel’s bunkers than in the French ghettos. Both are surrounded by hostile Muslim populations. But in Israel they can defend themselves.