(JTA) – Nice’s Jewish community will hold Shabbat activities in a spirit of solidarity and defiance after a terrorist killed scores of people in the city in southern France.
A 30-year-old man drove a rented white truck through a crowded promenade in the coastal resort city on Thursday night shortly after the annual firework show on Bastille Day, BFMTV reported. He may have had accomplices who participated in the attack itself, the channel reported. At least 84 people were killed.
“We will not let this affect us, we will not let fear affect or damage the life of our community, just as France will not let fear of terrorism change it,” Rabbi Yossef Yitschok Pinson of Nice’s Chabad House, told JTA Friday. Synagogue services and community events will go on as planned, he said.
“The truck left a trail of blood as it tore through the crowd,” said Pinson, citing eyewitness testimonies. One witness to the attack was “deeply traumatized by what she saw,” he said. “Body parts, people screaming, blood everywhere and very, very difficult sights.”
Unlike Paris, Nice had never seen a terrorist attack of the scale witnessed Thursday. “Although it is part of the reality of life in France that something like this can happen, it is shocking to see it in Nice,” Pinson added.
The driver, who has a criminal record involving violence but not terrorism, barrelled through the crowd that had gathered on the Promenade des Anglais to watch fireworks on France’s national day, according to the BFMTV television channel.
President Françoise Hollande said that an “attack with terrorist characteristics cannot be denied.” He added that France’s state of emergency, declared in November following a lethal series of terrorist attacks in Paris, may be extended and that some army reservists may be drafted. The driver, who fired a gun into the crowd, was killed by return fire. His name was not immediately released.
Nice, which is located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, is an international tourist destination that also draws hundreds of thousands of local French tourists in summer, as well as many European Jews who come to Nice because it has a permanent Jewish population of 25,000 with kosher shops and synagogues, in addition to the Chabad House.
But the summer crowd has not yet arrived, Pinson told JTA. “They usually come in August, then there are far more Jews in town,” he said.
Following the attack, Jewish groups joined other faith groups, heads of state and international organizations in condemning the attack.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in a statement, “I was heartbroken to learn of the many dozens of innocent victims who were killed or injured as a result of today’s terrorist attack that targeted Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, France.
“On behalf of all Canadians, I extend my deepest condolences to the families and friends of those who were killed. We also wish a speedy recovery to the many more that were injured.
“Canada and France are the closest of friends, and we stand by the French people as they face this terrible ordeal. We have offered all possible assistance to the French Government.
“Senseless acts like this one are not isolated events, and we will continue to work with our Allies and partners to fight terrorism in all of its forms. We will bring those who are responsible to justice, whether they be the perpetrators, or those involved in funding or organizing such attacks.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of France at this very difficult time. We mourn the loss of so many innocent victims.”
U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement: “We stand in solidarity and partnership with France, our oldest ally, as they respond to and recover from this attack. We know that the character of the French Republic will endure long after this devastating and tragic loss of life.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu siad in a statement Friday that his country “condemns in the strongest terms last night’s horrific attack in Nice.”
Israelis, he added, “stand united with the people of France today” and “Israel is ready to help the French government fight this evil until it is defeated.”
European Jewish Congress President Moshe Kantor spoke of his outrage, as well as “pain and sadness,” following the attack.