Knesset holds Commemoration day in memory of Diaspora Jewry amid France riots

The initiative for the commemoration, known as Zion Day, was spearheaded by MK Ariel Kallner of the Likud party.

Commemoration day in memory of Diaspora Jewry held in the Knesset amidst violent riots in France (photo credit: KOBI VARON)
Commemoration day in memory of Diaspora Jewry held in the Knesset amidst violent riots in France
(photo credit: KOBI VARON)

In light of ongoing, economically based violent riots in France that have triggered a barrage of local antisemitic attacks, and in remembrance of Diaspora Jews who have fallen victim to such attacks, the Knesset held a commemoration on Tuesday honoring the memory Sarah Halimi, an elderly retired physician who was brutally murdered in a vicious antisemitic assault in Paris in 2017.

The initiative for the commemoration, named Zion Day, was spearheaded by MK Ariel Kallner of the Likud Party. The objective of Zion Day is to pay tribute to the Diaspora Jews who have been targeted and killed worldwide due to their Jewish identity. The event aimed to foster a sense of unity, shared destiny, and a profound connection with Jews living outside of Israel.

Others who attended included Diaspora Affairs Minister Amichai Chikli, Chairman of the World Zionist Organization (WZO) Yaakov Hagoel, and Herzl Hajaj, father of the late Shir Hajaj, who was killed by terrorists in 2017.

An antisemitic attack without legal consequences.

During the commemoration, Halimi’s brother, William Attal, spoke of her vicious murder by an African Muslim immigrant. Halimi, 65, a retired physician, was asleep in her Paris apartment on April 4, 2017, when her neighbor, Kobili, 27, broke in and began beating her to death.

Neighbors heard her screams and Traoré loudly chanting Allahu Akbar (God is great) and reciting verses from the Quran as he beat her, until he ultimately threw her from a third-floor window, shouting “I killed the devil”

Initially, the French government hesitated to acknowledge the antisemitic nature of the crime, but public pressure eventually forced it out. Nevertheless, in 2019, an appeals court ruled that Traore' was not criminally responsible, due to psychotic reasons. triggering a significant public outcry.

Shir Hajaj (credit: Courtesy)
Shir Hajaj (credit: Courtesy)

Years after Halimi’s brutal murder, her brother, William Attal, immigrated to Israel. During his speech at the special Knesset gathering, he expressed the enormity of his sister’s murder and declared that the French Jewish community wants to immigrate to Israel and needs assistance.

“My sister’s murder is too terrible to go into detail about at this stage,” Attal said. But he added that “Masses of French Jews long to immigrate to Israel and they need to be helped. Look at what is happening in France now, with the Muslim immigrants. France cannot take care of its own problems. French Jews must immigrate to Israel.”

Hagoel underscored that protecting Jews in the Diaspora is a responsibility of Israel. He asserted that fear of being Jewish today could lead to the extinction of Judaism for future generations.

One of the main speakers at the event was Shira Ruderman, CEO of the Ruderman Family Foundation, who expressed her gratitude for being part of the initiative and its promotion, in collaboration with the Diaspora Affairs Ministry and the WZO. “The State of Israel has proven, without a shadow of a doubt, that it is the state of the Jewish people, and only through our unity as a people and the mutual guarantee between us can we ensure our security and prosperity.”

In May, the government approved establishing a committee to be responsible for organizing the commemoration of Jews in the Diaspora who were killed in antisemitic terrorist attacks. Other initiatives are the establishment of a memorial site for Diaspora Jews and an accessible database with information on the victims.

The resolution states: “In view of the Israeli government’s recognition of the need and moral obligation to commemorate Diaspora Jews who were murdered because of their Jewishness in hostilities on an antisemitic basis in the Diaspora, and in order to promote this commemoration, the government will decide to establish a special joint committee with the Israeli government and the national institutions, whose mission is to suggest recommendations regarding activities for the state commemoration” of Diaspora Jews.