Paris: Jews and Muslims living together
It's a few hours before Shabbat in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris, and a Lubavitch Chasid is helping an elderly Tunisian Jew put on tefillin in the doorway of a kosher butchery.
Across the street, bearded Muslim vendors are hawking sweets and pastries to crowds of North African immigrants for the nightly Ramadan break-fast meal, called the iftar.
Further down the boulevard lined with kosher restaurants, Ouali Boussad, an Algerian Berber, prepares coffee at the Lumiere de Belleville café.
"Jews, Arabs and Berbers live in Belleville like they did in North Africa," Boussad says. "They have the same culture." Despite the tensions that have marked Muslim-Jewish ties in France in recent years, this neighborhood in northeastern Paris has managed to stay relatively free of them. The Arab-Israeli conflict still complicates relations between the two communities, but residents describe Belleville as idyllic compared to the hostility between Jews and Muslims in the immigrant suburbs surrounding Paris.
"A whole generation here has worked, lived and grown up together," says Serge Cohen, who runs a kosher bakery off the boulevard. "It's a different situation in the suburbs. Jews are separated from Muslims and they mistrust each other." Locals in Belleville are fiercely proud of the climate of tolerance in their neighborhood.
"You journalists only want to write about anti-Semitism," shouts a butcher at Henrino's kosher butchery on the Boulevard de Belleville. "We all get along here." Some 350,000 Jews live in the Paris metropolitan area. In Belleville, the North African heritage shared by most French Jews is overt, which may help explain why Jews and Muslims here get along. Most Jewish residents and workers here are of Tunisian descent, and the neighborhood is affectionately known as La Goulette on Seine - named after a coastal town on the Mediterranean.
"Tunisians are the most open-minded Jews, they are basically like us," says a Muslim customer at Soltane, a Belleville halal butchery.
Source: Jpost (English)