RE­CENT YEARS have seen a spate of vi­o­lent an­ti­semitic in­ci­dents across France, such as the siege at a kosher food store in Paris that marked its third an­niver­sary this week.

At­tacks like this — and a 2012 gun at­tack on a Jewish school in Toulouse that killed a teacher and three chil­dren — have helped fuel a sharp in­crease in the num­ber of French Jews mak­ing aliyah.

Yet the mood is quite dif­fer­ent on the Mediter­ranean coast in Mar­seille.

Europe’s third largest Jewish com­mu­nity, af­ter Lon­don and Paris, is lead­ing a life of cau­tious op­ti­mism, which can seem at odds with those of their fel­low French Jews else­where.

The city has a well-es­tab­lished Jewish com­mu­nity of around 80,000 that can be traced back over many cen­turies. There are more than 50 syn­a­gogues here, along­side schools, as­so­ci­a­tions and many kosher food out­lets.

The shadow of an­tisemitism is never far from peo­ple’s minds — the bru­tal mur­ders of mo­bile-phone sales­man Ilan Hal­imi in Paris in 2006 and of 67-year-old Sarah Hal­imi in the city’s Belleville neigh­bour­hood last year.

But Jewish peo­ple in Mar­seille said such in­ci­dents do not trou­ble their daily lives.

“I live my life [openly] as a Jewish woman here,” said San­drine, who works on the counter at a kosher bak­ery in the city. “An­tisemitism is a prob­lem, but no more than else­where. You need to stay vig­i­lant.”

Éric, a lo­cal butcher, agreed: “An­tisemitism here is like [it is] ev­ery­where. It could hap­pen at any time. But I love the sun and the blue sky and, af­ter I’m away, I’m al­ways happy to get back.”

“Real an­tisemitism — an­ti­semitic hate — is hid­den,” said Édith, who works for the Mar­seille branch of Crif, an um­brella group that rep­re­sents Jewish or­gan­i­sa­tions around the coun­try.

“Cur­rently things are quiet, but it’s there in the back­ground.”

Many res­i­dents who spoke to the JC said there was still a need for re­straint.

Op­ti­cian and fa­ther-of-two Mike, 29, at­tended a re­li­gious school, wore a kip­pah and was once the vic­tim of an at­tack.

“It’s tricky be­ing Jewish in Mar­seille,” he said. “You can live a Jewish way of life, but you need to be dis­creet.”

That ne­ces­sity for dis­cre­tion is a rea­son for anger, ac­cord­ing to 45-year-old English teacher Karine.

An­ti­semitic in­ci­dents are of­ten di­min­ished in the public eye, she said, adding: “Think of the Ilan Hal­imi mur­der and the Toulouse school at­tack. There’s an un­de­ni­able con­text to the cur­rent French aliyah.”

But the num­ber of French Jews em­i­grat­ing to Israel has be­gun to fall, fol­low­ing a peak af­ter the 2015 at­tacks, and the com­mu­nity is grow­ing again.

New ar­rival Ivan, who works as an of­fice worker, is ex­tremely pos­i­tive about liv­ing in Mar­seille.

“I’ve been here 18 months and have never ex­pe­ri­enced any an­tisemitism,” he said. “I feel I can talk about Jewish is­sues very eas­ily.”

‘An­tisemitism here is like it is ev­ery­where. It could hap­pen at any time.’ Éric, kosher butcher ‘You can live a Jewish way of life here, but you need to be dis­creet.’ Mike, op­ti­cian ‘I’ve been here 18 months and have never ex­pe­ri­enced any an­tisemitism.’ Ivan, of­fice worker Un­de­ni­able con­text to the cur­rent French aliyah


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