When Alain Benhamou walked into his apartment near Paris in July 2015 and saw the words “dirty Jew” scrawled on the wall, he knew it was time to leave...
It was his second such break-in in less than three months and the 71-year-old no longer felt welcome in Bondy, a Parisian suburb he had called home for more than 40 years.
“Until the years 2000-2005, the town was nice and quiet, with 250 to 300 Jewish families and synagogues full on the Sabbath,” Benhamou says.
“Now, only about a hundred Jewish families remain.”
Benhamou is part of a growing number of French Jews who have effectively become internal refugees, fleeing insecurity and seeking protection in numbers in an atmosphere they say is increasingly hostile, and often expressed in relation to conflict in the Middle East.
He moved a few miles south to Villemomble, where there is a larger and more established Jewish community.
But others have fled France altogether.
A record 8,000 or so French Jews moved to Israel in 2015 alone, according to Israeli figures, in the year that a jihadist gunman linked to the Charlie Hebdo newspaper attackers killed four Jews in a kosher supermarket.
France has the largest Jewish population in Europe, estimated at 500,000 to 600,000 people.
Half of them live in the Paris region but their numbers have declined steadily over the past 15 years, researchers say.
Jerome Fourquet of polling firm IFOP says the change started around 2000 following a fresh surge of violence between Israel and the Palestinians, known as the second intifada.
With France also home to Europe’s largest Muslim community, which counts around five million members, the bloodshed in the Middle East unleashed a wave of unrest, particularly in the Paris region which saw a surge in anti-Semitic acts and threats, he says... Read more