Rachel Rimmer is Jewish and lives in Paris’ 19th arrondissement. Like many, she was shocked by the terror attacks against Charlie Hebdo and a Jewish supermarket. I asked for her perspective on recent events.
What is the atmosphere like currently in the Jewish community?
Like everyone, the Jewish community was horrified by the murders of the editors of Charlie Hebdo, but also by the attacks at the Hyper Cacher, where Jews were attacked for being Jewish. Sadly it’s not the first time this has happened in France: we saw the monstrous murder of Illan Halimi, the killings in Toulouse where soldiers and Jewish children were targeted, and most recently, the rape of a Jewish couple in Créteil.
Certain people are very pessimistic about the future of Jews in France and there’s a sort of trivialisation of antisemitism, as if it isn’t that bad.
Since Charlie, lots of friends have said to me ‘We finally understand what you’ve lived through’, and, at the national level, we note a real desire and realisation of the need to take the necessary measures to fight radical Islam and defend the Republic. The initial steps seem to be in the right direction, but we’ll have to see them through.
Do you feel safe? What do you think of the heightened police presence around Jewish schools and synagogues?
It’s not only the police, it’s the army too. We see soldiers with guns guarding the Jewish schools and synagogues. It’s reassuring to me, especially as the Jewish community is vigilant and the security warnings have been heeded. But we know what evil can do and, if our vigilance falters, we will be exposed again.
Certain people say that the attacks are relatively isolated and the threat to Jews in France isn’t actually that high. What do you think of this view?
No, I think it’s very severe. Jihadism has progressed, has been emulated, and there are lots of other young people ready to die killing Jews or Westerners in the name of Allah. This summer, during protests of support for Gaza, I was very worried by the cries of hate made against Jews and against Israel. There were calls for murder, communal prayers in Arabic against Jews in the Place de la République! And aside from fanatical extremists, I think the danger also lies in the trivialisation, in the attempt to minimise things, to say that antisemitism in France isn’t that bad.
Are you tempted to go to Israel?
For my part, not for now. I feel French, because of my education, my values and my language. My children are in a French state school, not a Jewish school, and I feel very integrated.
Do you know many people who want to go to Israel?
Yes, I know some, but those making their Aliyah have had the decision prepared for a long time. It’s often a choice of identity and religion, which is easier to make if one already speaks Hebrew, as is the case for people who’ve gone to a Jewish school. Personally, I don’t know anyone who’s leaving because of the antisemitism. Those who are leaving think that the place of all Jews is in Israel, and that their life, and the lives of their children, will be more accomplished there. And it’s true that the children in Israel seem more fulfilled, there’s less pressure at school; as Israel lives in constant danger, one better appreciates in every moment the value of life.
What are the main difficulties for people moving to Israel? Are they welcomed when they arrive? Is it easy to find housing and work?
To make a successful Aliyah, you must speak the language, have a job, and family and friends there. Otherwise it’s very hard, you’re not integrated into Israeli society. The State of Israel offers facilities to new immigrants for a year, but that’s not long enough to master the language and find work. Those who immigrate young and can do their studies in Israel come to find their place. But later in life, it’s hard. I know lots of French people who live in Israel but continue to work in France by making shuttle trips.
Photographs: Telegraph, Reuters, BBC, breakingnews.ie