One month after the terrorist attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris, journalist Zvika Klein of the NRG Hebrew language news website took a walk across the French capital while wearing tzitzit (fringes) and a kippah.
The walk, during which Klein was and accompanied by a bodyguard and a cameraman, proved to be an intimidating one.
“For 10 hours I quietly walked down the streets and suburbs of Paris, with photographer Dov Belhassen documenting the day using a GoPro camera hidden in his backpack. Given the tensions in Paris, which is still reeling from a wave of terrorist attacks (including the murder of Charlie Hebdo magazine journalists), I was assigned a bodyguard,” recalled Klein.
“At times it was like walking in downtown Ramallah. Most women were wearing a veil or a hijab, most men appeared to be Muslim, and Arabic was prevalent everywhere. We decided ahead of time that I was to walk through these areas quietly, without stopping anywhere, without speaking to anyone, without so much as looking sideways. My heart was pounding and negative thoughts were running through my head. I would be lying if I said I was not afraid,” he continued.
“Walking into a public housing neighborhood, we came across a little boy and his hijab-clad mother, who were clearly shocked to see us. ‘What is he doing here Mommy? Doesn’t he know he will be killed?’ the boy asked.”
Klein recalls walking into a marketplace in one of the mostly Muslim neighborhoods, and one merchant yelled, “Look at him! He should be ashamed of himself. What is he doing walking in here wearing a kippa?!"
“Is this what life is like for Paris' Jews? Is this what a Jew goes through, day in and day out, while walking to work or using public transportation?” wonders Klein. “The majority of French Jews do not flaunt their religion, as the Jewish community leaders have urged them to wear hats as they walk to and from work, or go bareheaded. But what about nighttime? Well, Jews prefers to stay inside in the evening. It is safer at home.”