The theft of a cell phone has upset the fragile coexistence in a Paris neighborhood of Jews and Arabs of North African origin. After they were caught stealing a cell phone Monday night, local Arab and African youths gathered to throw bottles at clients of a kosher pizzeria.
Several people were treated at a local hospital for cuts and bruises. Police arrived on the scene and reportedly made several arrests.
According to witness Rafi Fima, who was eating dinner with his wife at the La Marina pizzeria, several youths had stolen a cell phone off a table at a restaurant nearby and were running by the Marina when a client decided to give chase. He managed to retrieve the phone, but the youths, all Paris-born North African Arabs and African blacks, returned five minutes later.
“There were maybe 10 of them who came back and started throwing bottles at people seated outside,” Fima said. “Women and children were hit. People were screaming.
“It’s a miracle that nobody was really hurt badly,” he continued. “One guy I know received four stitches above his eye in the hospital, and I saw a woman whose shoulder was cut badly.”
Fima said it was an unusual occurrence.
“The local Arab and black kids always hang out together on the street, and the Jewish kids hang out separately from them, but there is never any fighting,” he said. “Everybody knows everybody else. Restaurant clients are always warned never to leave the cell phones on the tables outdoors, because there have been thefts, like anywhere in Paris.
“What was different this time was that someone decided to chase them and get the phone back,” he said. “It is really a shame, because these restaurants are really a model of coexistence between the different communities.”
The strip where La Marina is located has filled up in the past 10 years with kosher Tunisian restaurants, mostly pizzerias, and kosher supermarkets selling Israeli food and wine. There also are synagogues and Jewish and Muslim community centers in the area.
At midday and at night, restaurants’ outdoor terraces fill with customers from different communities, though North African Jews usually dominate the scene.
“Jews and Arabs and Africans all work together in the restaurants,” said Fima, who was born in Morocco. “We watch football matches together. For those of us who are born in North Africa, we have no problems getting along. For the kids born here, it’s another story.”
“Is this an anti-Semitic act?” wondered Alain Sitbon, who lives upstairs from the Marina. “Who knows? Most of the customers here last night were Jewish. The man whose phone was grabbed was Jewish. But most people get along well here. These restaurants really are models of coexistence. But the Arab kids are looking for trouble today.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.