Jewish activists in Paris, part of the 90-year-old youth Zionist movement called Betar, are preparing themselves for action, as Jewish communities eye unfolding events in Paris cautiously. The 4iéme district in Paris, home to the Rue des Rosier, demanded on Friday that shops in the well-known Jewish market pull down their shutters. The action came as suspected Islamic militants held a number of people hostage in a suburban kosher supermarket to the east of Paris, with other militants holding people hostage in a printing company near Charles de Gaulle airport.
France’s Betar movement is based not far from the Porte-Vincennes area, a predominantly Jewish locale where the hostage situation unfolded on Friday. The leader of Betar’s French “militia,” who goes by the name Yair, told Vocativ by phone today that Betar teams were preparing to defend Jewish communities from attack, and had placed their resources around the Porte Vincennes area:
“I am in my car en route to Vincennes, but everything is on lockdown,” he said. “The French Betar has four cars around Vincennes, one team in front of the Jewish school Georges Leven, one team in front of a Jewish school in the 7th arrondissement and another in front of a Jewish school in Boulogne.”
The Betar movement in Paris trains its followers in Krav Maga, a brand of martial arts used by the Israeli Defence Forces.
Betar’s official Twitter account was tweeting exclusively in all caps on Friday, issuing alerts to its community to stay alert and go out only in groups, but also to avoid reacting to any false information.
RESTEZ VIGILANT SORTEZ EQUIPÉS ET EN GROUPE QUE CHACUN FASSE DES EFFORTS CE SHABATH TEL HAY ET SHABATH SHALOM MES FRERES ET SOEURS JUIFS
— BetarFranceOfficiel (@Betar_Officiel) January 9, 2015
“Please be careful, get out equipped and in groups, everyone must make efforts this Shabbath. Tel Hay and Shabath Shalom my Jewish brothers and sisters.”
Betar has seen an increase in popularity in Paris in recent months because of a rising tide of anti-Semitism, with thousands of French Jews immigrating to Israel. Vocativ went to visit Betar’s French headquarters in 2013 to understand the group’s motivations and training.