Jewish community won’t cancel Shabbat services after Nice attack
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Jewish community won’t cancel Shabbat services after Nice attack

‘We will not let this affect us,’ says rabbi after 84 killed in truck-ramming, shooting attack; five Jews among injured

Police officers and a soldier stand alongside the sealed-off area of an attack after a truck drove onto the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd that was watching the Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, France, July 15, 2016. (AP/Ciaran Fahey)
Police officers and a soldier stand alongside the sealed-off area of an attack after a truck drove onto the sidewalk and plowed through a crowd that was watching the Bastille Day fireworks in Nice, France, July 15, 2016. (AP/Ciaran Fahey)

Nice’s Jewish community has decided to hold Shabbat services as planned after a vehicular terror attack killed 84 people in the city in southern France on Thursday night.

The attack was carried out by a 31-year-old Tunisian-born man who drove a rented white truck through a crowded promenade in the coastal resort city of Nice on Thursday night, shortly after the annual firework show on Bastille Day.

“We will not let this affect us, we will not let fear affect or damage the life of our community, just as France will not let fear of terrorism change it,” Yossef Yitschok Pinson, the rabbi of Nice’s Chabad House, told JTA Friday.

Synagogue services and community events will proceed as planned, he said.

In addition to the 84 fatalities, the attack resulted in severe injuries to at least 18 people. The identities of the victims have not yet been made public. At least five of the wounded are Jews, according to Pinson.

People react in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 15, 2016, after a van drove into a crowd watching a fireworks display.(AFP PHOTO / Valery HACHE)
People react in the French Riviera town of Nice on July 15, 2016, after a truck drove into a crowd watching a fireworks display. (AFP/Valery Hache)

“The truck left a trail of blood as it tore through the crowd,” said Pinson, based on eyewitness testimonies. One witness to the attack was “deeply traumatized by what she saw,” he said. “Body parts, people screaming, blood everywhere and very, very difficult sights.” Unlike Paris, Nice had never seen a terrorist attack of the scale witnessed Thursday.

“Although it is part of the reality of life in France that something like this can happen, it is shocking to see it in Nice,” Pinson added.

The driver, who has a criminal record involving violence but not terrorism, barreled through the crowd that had gathered on the Promenade des Anglais to watch the show.

A forensic expert evacuates a dead body on the Promenade des Anglais seafront in the French Riviera city of Nice on July 15, 2016, after a gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day, killing at least 84 people. (AFP Photo/Boris Horvat)
A forensic expert evacuates a dead body on the Promenade des Anglais seafront in the French Riviera city of Nice on July 15, 2016, after a gunman smashed a truck into a crowd of revellers celebrating Bastille Day, killing at least 84 people. (AFP Photo/Boris Horvat)

French President Francois Hollande on Friday said that an “attack with terrorist characteristics cannot be denied.” He added that France’s state of emergency, declared in November following a lethal series of terrorist attacks in Paris, may be extended and that some army reservists may be drafted.

The truck driver, who fired a gun into the crowd, was killed by police fire. His name was not immediately released.

France's President Francois Hollande in a televised address early Friday, July 15, 2016, after a terrorist killed at least 80 people in a truck-ramming and shooting attack in the southern French city of Nice several hours earlier. (YouTube screen capture)
France’s President Francois Hollande in a televised address early Friday, July 15, 2016, after a terrorist killed at least 80 people in a truck-ramming and shooting attack in the southern French city of Nice several hours earlier. (YouTube screen capture)

Nice, which is located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, is an international tourist destination that also draws hundreds of thousands of local French tourists in summer, including many European Jews. Nice has a permanent Jewish population of 25,000 with kosher shops and synagogues, in addition to the Chabad House.

But the summer crowd has not yet arrived, Rabbi Pinson told JTA. “They usually come in August, then there are far more Jews in town,” he said.

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