Fear and Loathing in Paris

Welcome to Paris 2015, where soldiers are walking every street that houses a Jewish institution, and where keffiyeh-wearing men and veiled women speak Arabic on every street corner. Walking down one Parisian suburb, I was asked what I doing there. In modern-day Paris, you see, Jews are barred from entering certain areas.

For 10 hours I quietly walked down the streets and suburbs of Paris, with photographer Dov Belhassen documenting the day using a GoPro camera hidden in his backpack. Given the tensions in Paris, which is still reeling from a wave of terrorist attacks (including the murder of Charlie Hebdo magazine journalists), I was assigned a bodyguard.

In zero-degree weather, thousands of Frenchmen braved the cold wind on their way to just another day at the office. We started walking – first through the quieter quarters of the city, across from the Eiffel Tower, the Champs-ֹlysיes, and the Jewish neighborhoods, and later through the mostly Muslim neighborhoods.

Areas known as tourist attractions were relatively calm, but the further from them we walked, the more anxious I became over the hateful stares, the belligerent remarks, and the hostile body language….

Walking into a public housing neighborhood, we came across a little boy and his hijab-clad mother, who were clearly shocked to see us. “What is he doing here Mommy? Doesn’t he know he will be killed?” the boy asked….

At a nearby cafe fingers were pointed at us, and moments later two thugs were waiting for us on the street corner. They swore at me, yelled “Jew” and spat at me. “I think we’ve been made,” the photographer whispered at me. Two youths were waiting for us on the next street corner, as they had apparently heard that a Jew was walking around their neighborhood.

They made it clear to us that we had better get out of there, and we took their advice. “A few more minutes and this would have been a lynching,” the bodyguard told me as we were getting into the car. “Leave this area right now.”

By Zvika Klein – NRG –