Randy's Corner Deli Library

15 November 2003

Arsonists torch Jewish school near Paris

Michel Zlotowski
Nov. 15, 2003

Fire gutted the Merkaz HaTorah Jewish secondary school in the Paris suburb
of Gagny in the Seine-Saint-Denis region Saturday morning at 3am. There were
no injuries.

Fire started simultaneously in two separate places on the first floor of the
school where works were under way. A primary school and a kindergarten for
200 children were to be inaugurated there in January 2004. The arsonist or
arsonists broke into the building through a ground floor window.

About 100 firefighters were called in to put out the flames, which destroyed
some 3,000 square metres on the school's second floor.

France's Minister of Interior Nicolas Sarkozy and Minister of Education Luc
Ferry visited the charred remnants of the building on Saturday. They were
met by the head of the local Jewish community and by CRIF's (the umbrella
body representing French Jewry) Director-general Haim Musicant.

"The criminal origin of the blaze is more than strongly suspected which
gives, for this Jewish school, an anti-Semitic and obviously racist
connotation," said Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

"This shows that there is still lots of work to do to fight against all
forms of anti-Semitism," the minister added.

He vowed that those who set the fire would be caught and punished "with the
greatest severity."

Musicant said he was worried by this aggression against a Jewish school. "In
the homeland of human rights, attacks against children and schools are
absolutely intolerable," he said.

"We know the French government's determination to fight anti-Semitism. We
would like the arsonists to be arrested, tried and condemned in the hardest
possible way to send a strong signal about France's commitment to fight

The Merkaz Hatorah school has some 160 junior high school students and 60
students in the high school.

With The Associated Press


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