Kippah Jews
A school teacher who was wearing a kippah (skull cap) was attacked by a youth in the name of Isis REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

The head of the Jewish community in Marseille, France, has urged people of the faith to stop wearing their kippahs (skull caps) in public for safety reasons. The move follows an anti-Semitic attack on a school teacher by a youth, who claimed he was acting in the name of Isis.

Zvi Ammar, head of the Marseille's Israeli Consistory, told La Provence daily: "Not wearing the kippah can save lives and nothing is more important." Referring to the rising anti-Semitic crimes in the country he said: "It really hurts to reach that point but I don't want anyone to die in Marseille because they have a kippah on their head."

On 11 January, Binyamin Amsalem was attacked by a Turkish teen of Kurdish origin who was armed with a machete. Amsalem defended himself with a copy of the Torah that he was carrying. He sustained minor injuries on his hand and head.

Fabrice Labi, the teacher's lawyer, told reporters that his client had told him: "I had the feeling (the attacker) wanted to decapitate me." While talking to the press on Tuesday (12 January), Amsalem said the experience had been "unimaginably difficult".

Ammar acknowledged that his statements would not go down well with many Jews, yet he felt that "exceptional measures" were required "until better days".

France's chief rabbi Haim Korsia, however, has urged Jews not to follow Ammar's advice and continue wearing their kippahs in public. "We should not give in to anything, we will continue to wear the kippah," he said.

The attack on Amsalem is the latest in a series of anti-Semitic attacks in the southern French city. In November 2015, a teacher at a Jewish school was stabbed by three persons who shouted anti-Semitic insults at him, while in October, three Jews were assaulted near a synagogue by a drunken assailant.