Article by: Sam Sokol / The Jerusalem Post
Pictures by: Israel Bardugo / Chabad.info
This morning armed soldiers congregated outside the schools belonging to the Paris’ Ecole Sinai network run by Rabbi Yosef Pevzner.
“Normally its people in prison who are surrounded by soldiers and now it feels like we are prison,” the affable Chabad hasid told the Jerusalem Post in response to army’s deployment at not only his schools but at every single Jewish education institution throughout the country.
The government mobilized its army on Monday, only days after Islamic gunmen shocked the world by killing seventeen people in attacks on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and a subsequent hostage taking at the HyperCacher kosher marketplace.
The coordinated assaults amounted to the deadliest attack by militant Islamists on a European city since 57 people were killed in an attack on London’s transport system in 2005.
In addition to the ten thousand troops were dispatched throughout France, 4,700 police officers being deployed at all 717 Jewish schools across the country, according to Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
Until now Pevzner’s schools, like many Jewish sites, have been guarded by private security, he said, adding that since Sunday’s anti-terrorism protests, in which 1.2 million people marched in Paris on Sunday and 2.5 million more in the provinces, “we feel that the atmosphere has changed.”
It seems that France has “suddenly received the message that it is impossible to continue like this,” he said, asserting that many in France felt that there was little to do against a rising tide of extremism. The French people’s reaction to the violence seems to have shifted thinking among the country’s leadership which is now becoming more proactive and showing believers in radical Islam “that the whole country is against them.”
“Until now they thought the French accepted the judgement on themselves,” he added. “Now even the government pays attention that it is impossible to make do with words.”
Pevzner said that the parents of his students were in a panic “that you can’t even describe” but that they began to calm down when they arrived and saw troops deployed outside the schools.
However, seeing a truck full of soldiers with heavy weapons outside your child’s school is “not a good feeling. On the other hand we are obligated to do that so we do it.”
In 2012, terrorist Mohammed Merah opened fire at Toulouse’s Otzar HaTorah school, killing four people, three of them children.
Paris’ Grand Synagogue was closed over Shabbat, the first time since the Second World War, drawing criticism among some who complained that the government should have done everything possible to keep it open after the attack.