Jews in French city urged not to wear kippas following machete attack

© Jorge Lopez
A top Jewish leader in southern France has urged Jews in the region to refrain from wearing traditional headwear “until better days.” It comes after a Jewish teacher was injured in a machete attack by a Turkish teenager.

Speaking to La Provence newspaper, the president of the Marseille Israelite Consistory, Zvi Ammar, called on Jews “not to wear the kippa in the street to avoid being identified as Jewish.”

"It is sad to find ourselves in this position in 2016, in a great democratic country like France...but faced with an exceptional situation, we have to take exceptional measures… I do not want anyone to die in Marseille because they had a kippa on their head,” Ammar said. He went on to say that he would refrain from wearing a kippa to his synagogue on Saturday for the "first time in his life."

The statement comes just one day after a teacher wearing a kippa was attacked by a Turkish citizen of Kurdish origin armed with a machete and a knife in Marseille. The 15-year-old expressed his support for Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) following the attack.

But the country's chief rabbi, Haim Korsia, spoke out against Ammar's call, telling Jews that they should instead wear their religious caps as usual.

"We should not give an inch, we should continue wearing the kippa," Korsia said, stressing that Jews and kippas are not the cause of the violence.

That sentiment was echoed by Roger Cukierman, head of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions Juives de France (CRIF), who said that not wearing a kippa in public represents a “defeatist attitude,” Reuters reported.

The kippa, also referred to as a yarmulke or a skullcap, is worn by Jewish men as an outward sign of their faith.

The Tuesday attack was the third assault to take place in Marseille in recent months. In November, a Jewish teacher was stabbed in the name of IS while three attackers shouted anti-Semitic insults. Three Jews were also assaulted in the city in October, one of whom was attacked with a knife near a synagogue.

France has been the target of numerous anti-Semitic incidents over the past year, including terror attacks last January which killed four people inside a Jewish supermarket in Paris. Since then, more than 700 synagogues, Jewish schools and community centers in France have been protected by police or soldiers.

France has been under a state of emergency since November 13, when coordinated terror attacks by Islamist militants left 130 people dead and 352 others injured in Paris.