Stabbing takes anti-Semitic acts in France to a new level

paris | Some Jewish officials are worried that anti-Semites are ratcheting up violence against Jews in France, and that the courts are tacitly giving them a pass with light sentences.

In the latest significant attack, community officials said an assailant tried to murder a yeshiva student. He was stabbed last week as he prepared for Shabbat at one of Europe’s top talmudic academies.

Yisrael Yiftah, 17, was heading toward a local grocery store across from the Mekor Yisrael Yeshiva in Epinay-sur-Seine, a suburb north of Paris, on Friday, June 4, when a large man described as of North African origin sprang upon him with a knife.

The man screamed “God is great” in Arabic and plunged the knife into Yiftah’s chest.

Police believe the same man carried out additional knife attacks that night against non-Jewish targets, but Jewish groups are in no doubt as to the anti-Semitic nature of the initial incident.

“The yeshiva’s in a closed alleyway,” said Sammy Ghozlan, president of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism. “If you enter there with a knife in a bag, you’re only going there for one purpose.”

The attack represented a new level of anti-Semitic assault, the first with a deadly weapon, community leaders say. It comes amid an alarming increase in the intensity of anti-Jewish attacks in recent weeks.

In the past month, rabbis in Marseille and in the Parisian suburb of Creteil were attacked, and a rabbi’s son was severely beaten near his home in Paris over Shavuot.

Government statistics show a steep rise in anti-Semitic incidents since the beginning of 2004. The 67 incidents reported for the first quarter of the year contrast sharply with the 34 incidents for the last quarter of 2003.

Paradoxically, the rise has come at a time when Jewish groups acknowledge the government has shown real willingness to tackle the problem of anti-Semitism.

The attacks have left Jewish community members wringing their hands. “The government has taken all sorts of measures to deal with this, and our synagogues are like fortresses,” Ghozlan said. “They’ve even put on extra buses from railway stations so people don’t walk around at night. What more can we do?”