Investigators continue at the scene near the heavy truck that ran into a crowd at high speed killing scores who were celebrating the Bastille Day July 14 national holiday on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France, July 15, 2016. .
(photo credit: REUTERS/ERIC GAILLARD)
French Jewish leader Joël Mergui called Islamist terrorism Nazism, as the country reeled from the terrorist attack in Nice on Bastille Day that killed 84 people and wounded hundreds of others.
At least six members of France’s Jewish community were among the wounded when a 31-year-old Franco- Tunisian gunman rammed a truck into and plowed through a crowd of spectators at the celebratory fireworks display on Thursday.
President of the Israelite Central Consistory of France Mergui expressed his pain at the deaths and injuries, including children, saying the “unconventional means of destruction” shows that the “enemies of democracy will stop at nothing to reap death, chaos and terror, with the sole objective of imposing their jihadist worldview.”
“Like the United States and Israel, where their populations are equally affected by this new type of unconventional warfare, our country is in resistance against Islamism, this new denier of human rights, as Nazism was in the past,” he stated.
The Representative Council of French Jewish Institutions (CRIF) said it was “horrified” by the bloody attack.
“The attack happened on a day when we celebrate the ideas of liberty, equality and brotherhood in France. So it’s very important to reinforce those principles, and for French society to be united,” CRIF executive director Robert Ejnes told The Jerusalem Post.
French Prime Minister Manuel Valls declared three days of national mourning starting Saturday, in which Ejnes said France’s Jewish community would take part.
“At the same time,” Ejnes added, “it’s important for people to realize that these terrorist attacks occurring around the world are of the same nature. There is a habit that when it happens in Israel, it seems to be different for the French press and the French people. We want to remind everyone that these attacks against democracy and civilization are the same whether they happen in Tel Aviv or in Nice.”
Niddam Maurice, president of the Jewish community in Nice, said Friday he, too, was horrified by the attack and called on Jewish communities to send condolences and pray for the wounded victims of the massacre to recover, saying prayers for the victims would be at the heart of Shabbat prayer services.
Meanwhile, members of Chabad in Nice were busy visiting the hospitalized victims and making food for them for Shabbat.
“We are in contact with all of their [the Jewish casualties] families – day and night – and our phones haven’t stopped ringing,” said Chabad emissary Jeremy Zaoui.
Synagogues throughout France prayed Saturday for the recovery of the wounded under tight military protection.
“Usually, there are not so many people coming to the synagogue here in July-August,” said Sandrine, a young Jewish student. “Everyone is on vacation. But community members felt that they needed to be together at such a moment, when their beloved city is under attack. To be together – both as Jews and as French citizens.”
Indeed, many French Jews expressed the same sentiment – concern for the safety of the Jewish community and also for the challenge of terrorism that France has been facing for several years.
“The military has been faithfully and diligently guarding our synagogues and schools,” said an elderly Jew from Nice who asked not to be named.
“I am not sure what more can be done. We are all very vigilant when coming and going to the synagogue. We cannot live inside walls permanently.
Until this attack, we actually felt very secure here. We have a wonderful and thriving Jewish community in Nice, and we like the idea of being just on the other shore of the Mediterranean.
It is as if we can see Tel Aviv’s beaches on the horizon.”
Rabbi Avi Nidam, a Chabad emissary to Nice, said several Jewish tourists on Friday came to the Chabad restaurant not far from the scene of the attack determined to continue their visit as planned and not succumb to the fear of terrorism.