Teenager arrested after waving large machete in front of French Jewish school

Boy also hurls marbles, shouts ‘dirty Jews’ at students of school in Lyon suburb; European Jewish Association chief says France ‘failing miserably’ at preventing such incidents

Cnaan Liphshiz is The Times of Israel's Jewish World reporter

The entrance to the College/Lycee Juive de Lyon. (Google via JTA)
The entrance to the College/Lycee Juive de Lyon. (Google via JTA)

JTA — French police arrested a teenager who brandished a large knife in front of a Jewish high school outside Lyon while shouting antisemitic slogans last Thursday.

The incident took place outside College/Lycee Juive de Lyon in Villeurbanne, a suburb of the eastern city, the Actu17 news site reported Friday.

He also hurled marbles at students in the school and called them “dirty Jews” as he waved the machete with a 60-centimeter-long (2-foot-long) blade, according to the report, which noted that the boy had no police record.

The incident comes as French Jews and French schools are both on high alert after a series of deadly incidents. Last year, a high school teacher who had drawn criticism for showing his students caricatures of the Islamic prophet Muhammad was murdered outside his school, allegedly by a teenager who had been radicalized online.

Jewish leaders in France view a 2012 killing of three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse as the beginning of a wave of antisemitic attacks by Islamic jihadists that have killed at least 12 Jews and more than 200 others since then.

Police are looking into whether the teenager arrested in Lyon or his family has any ties to terrorism, the Actu17 report said.

The incident in Villeurbanne shows “the need for education against antisemitism must begin early. For this boy, it was too late,” said Rabbi Menachem Margolin, chairman of the European Jewish Association, who spoke about the incident at a conference on antisemitism Monday in Krakow, Poland.

European Jewish Association Chairman Menachem Margolin addresses his group’s annual conference in Paris on February 25, 2020. (Yoni Rykner)

The EJA Delegation to Auschwitz conference was to commemorate the Kristallnacht pogroms of 1938 in Germany and Austria, which many historians view as the firing shot for the Holocaust. About 160 people attended, including European lawmakers and the chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Israel, David Lau.

“The fact that something like this is happening in 2021 in France means Europe is failing miserably at preventing the recurrence of violent antisemitism,” he said.

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