French Interior Minister Manuel Valls will receive leaders of the Jewish community of France Tuesday afternoon following the brutal anti-Semitic attack last Saturday in Villeurbanne, near Lyon, against three young rabbinical students.
The attackers numbered about ten and were armed with a hammer and an iron bar.
They screamed ‘Dirty Jew’ and assaulted the three Chabad Jewish men, aged 18, 23 and 24 years old, wearing skullcaps and walking to the nearby Beth Menahem Jewish school for Shabbat service.
The victims, Shmuel Mequies, Shmuel Bitton and Levi Azulai, all sustained wounds and were hospitalized and treated. One suffered an open head wound and the other was injured in the neck.
Interior Minister Manuel Valls, who described the attack as anti-Semitic and “extremely serious,” was due to receive the main leaders of the Jewish community “to address, in concrete terms, issues related to the security of the Jewish community throughout the territory,” his office said.
In a meeting with representatives of CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish organizations, in Marseille last month, shortly after his appointment as Interior Minister in the new government under President Francois Hollande, Manuel Valls emphasized his commitment to fight anti-Semitism and the "anti-Zionist front." He said he would not accept the presence on French territory of "so-called theologians advocating "Jew-hatred".
In March, a French Muslim gunman murdered a rabbi and three Jewish children in a Jewish school in Toulouse.
Lyon’s Mayor Gerard Collomb and and the city’s chief of police met Monday with local Chabad representatives and the victims’ families to respond to the attack.
They reportedly promised due diligence to step up patrols in the neighborhood and to do their best to find and prosecute the assailants. Investigations are under way but no suspects have been arrested.
“The Jews of Lyon do not always feel safe. I am scared with my babies,” one Jewish inhabitant said. “We walk past these neighborhoods that are 90% Muslims and we are constantly verbally attacked. We are proud to be Jewish but it’s hard.”
Sara Gurewitz, a local Chabad emissary, declared: “The recent atmosphere in France has been very anti-Semitic and unfriendly for the Jews. We are used to verbal, anti-Semitic assaults. We have a physical assault in our city around once or twice a year. Local mosques are waving Palestinian flags to incite. As Jews, we are always scared. But after the recent murderous terrorist attack on Jews in Toulouse, everyone is on pins and needles.”
Around 600,000 Jews live in France, 20,000 of them in the Lyon area.