French teacher says he conceals kippah following machete attack


(JTA) — On the eve of a landmark trial for terrorism in France, the alleged victim in a machete attack said he has begun concealing his kippah.

Benjamin Amsellem told the news website 20 Minutes on Tuesday about how his life was turned upside down following last year’s incident in Marseille, when police say a radicalized 15-year-old of Turkish descent lightly wounded the city teacher.

Having moved to the Paris region as part of his therapy, Amsellem said he now prefers “to wear a hat instead of the kippah in places where I don’t feel safe.” He said he never feared wearing a kippah in Marseille.

The interview was published one day before the opening of the teenager’s trial Wednesday in a Paris juvenile court.

According to the AFP news agency, which defined the trial as “a sad precedent,” it is the first time that a minor under the age of 18 is being tried in France for a jihadist attack. The youth, whose name was not published in the media, is accused of attacking Amsellem and then fleeing the scene after Amsellem fought him off using a Bible to shield his body from the weapon.

The attack was particularly shocking to Amsellem’s community in Marseille, France’s second largest city with a population of 852,000 and a Jewish population of 80,000, because it had seen proportionately fewer anti-Semitic attacks than in Paris, where hundreds are recorded annually.

Following the attack Tzvi Amar, the president of the Marseille branch of the Consistoire – the community organization responsible for providing religious services to French Jews — called for Jews to conceal their kippahs, stirring controversy.

Amsellem is still undergoing therapy to deal with the psychological effects of the attack. While the trial has brought back “something I try not to think of,” he decided to talk to the media to say that “it exists, it can happen and one needs to be careful, one needs to take precautions to save one’s life.”

According to the defendant’s lawyer, Merabi Murgulia, the teen has confessed to committing the actions for which he is standing trial and regrets them profoundly. He has not pleaded guilty, however, and was to appear in court on Thursday.

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