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Netanyahu, Hollande to Visit Ohr HaTorah School in Toulouse

Hollande and Netanyahu will visit the Jewish school where Mohammed Merah murdered a teacher and three Jewish children.
By Rachel Hirshfeld
First Publish: 10/31/2012, 3:12 PM

French President Francois Hollande and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
French President Francois Hollande and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
Reuters

French President Francois Hollande and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu will visit the Ozar Hatorah school, in Toulouse, where terrorist Mohammed Merah murdered seven people, including a teacher and three Jewish children.

Netanyahu, who arrived in France Wednesday for a two-day visit to the country, will participate in a memorial ceremony at the Jewish Ozar Hatorah school (renamed Ohr Hatorah) where the killing took place and then talk with representatives of the local Jewish community, the European Jewish Press (EJP) reported.

Merah, a 23-year-old French-Algerian Islamist terrorist, was shot and killed by police in a standoff after his March killing spree.

Follwing the brutal attack, Hollande, who was then a presidential candidate, traveled to Toulouse to express "solidarity with the families and the Jewish community in France."

Hollande had then called to "do everything to fight anti-Semitism and racism and bring a common and firm response from the Republic."

The meeting between the two leaders is the first since Hollande’s election in May and is expected to focus on the nuclear Iran issue, the increased anti-Semitism against French Jewry, and the fight against terrorism.

The two-day trip is important because it will be Netanyahu's "first opportunity to talk with President Hollande, and he hopes to build a good working relationship with the French leader," a source close to Netanyahu told AFP.

Since taking office five months ago, Hollande has only spoken to Netanyahu by phone, whereas he has already met twice with Palestinian Authority leader Mahmud Abbas in Paris. He has also met Israeli Labor party leader Shelly Yachimovich.

"It's no secret that the Jews of France are experiencing a difficult period since the Toulouse incident," one source said, according to the EJP.

"French society and government are aware of the increase in anti-Semitism in their country and are working determinedly to stem the phenomenon,"the source said.

Nicole Yardeni, director of CRIF, the representative body of French Jewish organisations, said Netanyahu’s visit in Toulouse "is of great importance" as "it shows the residents that the people of Israel and the Jewish people in general are expressing their solidarity with the residents after the horrific attack there."

"I wouldn't say that after the incident the Jews are living in greater fear, because they seem to be carrying on with their lives. But they are certainly shocked by the level the hatred against them has reached," Yardeni added.

"Netanyahu wants to send a message of solidarity with victims of terrorism -- both Jewish and non-Jewish," an Israeli source said, according to EJP. "He wants to emphasize the importance of unified international action against terrorism." 

France's SPCJ Jewish security watchdog said earlier this month that anti-Semitic acts surged by 45 percent in the first eight months of this year and were given impetus by Merah’s attack.

Recently, the increase in anti-Semitism hit the social networking site of Twitter, when the hashtag #unbonjuif, which in English literally means “a good Jew,” become one of the top trending words on French language tweets and led thousands of Twitter users to enter what the French daily Le Monde termed “a competition of anti-Semitic jokes.”