French teacher says he conceals kippah following machete attack

Cnaan Liphshiz

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

Benjamin Amsellem, a teacher from Marseilles, told the news website 20 Minutes on Tuesday about how his life was turned upside down following last year’s incident, in which police say a radicalized youth of Turkish descent lightly wounded Amsellem using a machete in Marseilles.

Having moved to the Paris region as part of his therapy, Amsellem, who said he never used to fear wearing a kippah in Marseilles, now prefers “to wear a hat instead of the kippah in places where I don’t feel safe,” he said during the interview, which was published one day before the opening of his alleged attacker’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 allegedly committing a jihadist attack. The youth, whose name was not published in the media, was 15 when he allegedly attacked Amsellem and fled the scene of the incident after Amsellem fought him off using a Hebrew bible book to shield his body from the knife.


The attack was particularly shocking to Amsellem’s community in Marseilles, France’s second largest ciry with 80,000 Jews, 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 Marseilles branch of the Consistoire – the community organization responsible for providing religious services to French Jews – caused controversy with his call for Jews to conceal their kippahs.

It was also a life-changing experience for Amsellem, who 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 defendant has confessed to committing the actions for which he is standing trial, and regrets them profoundly.