The son of a man murdered in a kosher deli in Paris this week buried his proud Zionist father in Israel, saying: “You’re here now.”
Philippe Braham, 45, was one of the four Jewish victims of a heavily-armed Islamist gunman, who walked into a kosher deli on Friday, killing the father-of-four, together with Yohan Cohen, 21; Yoav Hattab, 22; and François-Michel Saada, 64.
At an emotional Jerusalem funeral, thousands of people heard a “broken-hearted” Israeli President Reuven Rivlin say: “This is not how we wanted to welcome you.”
As family members mourned, signs were held aloft, reading: “Je suis mort parce que juif” (I died because I am Jewish), while Israeli leaders announced emergency measures to cope with the influx of French Jews looking to leave.
It follows the killing of ten journalists and staff at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, together with two police officers, on Wednesday last week. A trainee policewoman was then murdered in a separate incident on Thursday, only yards from a Chabad school, which is believed to have been the gunman’s original target. He then attacked a kosher deli in Vincennes on Friday, killing Jewish customers and a Jewish shop assistant before dying when police stormed the building.
Over 7,000 Jews left France last year and Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency, said he was revising 2015 estimates of French olim (immigrants to Israel) in light of the Paris attacks, but European Jewish leaders resisted Israeli calls to leave.
“We have our experience of surviving under all possible circumstances,” said Moshe Kantor of the European Jewish Congress. “We will not give up our motherland, which is called Europe. We will not stop the history of European Jewry.”
In an interview last week, French Prime Minister Manuel Valls spoke about the prospect of French Jews leaving the country in sizeable numbers. “France will no longer be France,” he said. “The French Republic will be judged a failure.”
But by Friday evening, that prospect seemed all too real, as Paris became a city in a state of lockdown, with the first closure of the Great Synagogue over Shabbat since World War II and thousands of armed troops guarding Jewish institutions.
On Sunday, over a million people marched with world leaders including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, walking among placards declaring ‘je suis Charlie’ and je suis juif’ (I am Jewish).
In a moving memorial service that night, France’s Chief Rabbi Haim Korsia said he wouldn’t criticise Jews who chose to leave but added: “France is our language, our dreams, our hope for the future.”
It was France’s worst terrorist atrocity in decades, evoking memories of another Islamist gunman’s killing of children at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 and raising the prospect of a backlash against France’s four million Muslims.
The two brothers who attacked the magazine had had military training in Yemen and links to al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), while the man kosher deli killer pledged allegiance to Islamic State (ISIS). The three men coordinated attacks with the help of the latter’s partner, who fled to Syria before authorities could trace her.
“The threat posed by religious extremists is global, immediate, violent and deeply rooted,” said the Conference of European Rabbis in a newly-released manifesto.
Those thoughts were echoed by Netanyahu at the funeral of the four victims this week, saying: “World leaders understand these fundamentalists are dangerous to the whole world. We say that they will never have victory over the Jewish people.”