Rabbi Mevorah Zerbib stands near the ark of the Kedouchat Levy Synagogue in northern Paris, January 12, 2015. (photo credit: Elhanan Miller/Times of Israel)
Arabic is still spoken in the local kosher restaurant in the 18th arrondissement, where a Jewish presence is quickly becoming a thing of the past
PARIS — A large poster of newly elected Tunisian president Beji Caid Essebsi greets diners at the entrance to the Kosher Tunisian restaurant Chez Guichi in Paris’s immigrant-dominated 18th arrondissement. “Long live Tunisia,” the poster reads in Arabic.
As he roasted beef kebabs on the open grill, the owner, Guichi, wearing a large, black kippa, was chatting in dialect with the lunch customers, Jews and Arabs, with Arabic covers of Beyonce playing in the background.
Next to the sink, where Jews traditionally wash their hands before breaking bread, a poster marked the eighth anniversary last January of the kidnapping and murder of Ilan Halimi, a Jewish Parisian of Moroccan decent, by a Muslim gang.
The bundle of contradictions that is Chez Guichi represents a world that was once, and is no more. Waves of Jewish immigrants — first Eastern Europeans at the turn of the 20th century and then North Africans in the 1960s and 1970s — have all but abandoned the working-class neighborhood, which now mostly houses Muslim immigrants from Sub-Saharan Africa and the Maghreb.
Jews and Arabs alike are reluctant to speak of the rising tension between the two communities, though all admit its pervasiveness. At el-Walid Halal butcher, the man behind the counter refuses to speak to the press without his boss’s permission. “I went to the demonstration yesterday,” he says. “We want to remain neutral”…