Grandmother of students describes Paris attack and its aftermath


By Goldie Fields, Executive Editor

On Wednesday, Jan. 7, two Islamic terrorists forced their way into the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical weekly newspaper which had previously published mocking cartoons of the prophet Muhammad. They killed 11 people, including nine staff members, along with a security guard and a building maintenance worker.

Two days later, another Islamic terrorist entered Hypercacher, a kosher supermarket in Paris, took 15 hostages, and killed four Jews before the Paris police stormed the market and killed him.

In the days following, people throughout France adopted the slogan Je suis Charlie, French for “I am Charlie,” and Je suis Juif, “I am Jewish.” French President Francois Hollande, said, “There is no France without the Jews.”

Chantal Drigues, grandmother of Shalhevet students Shana and Laly Chriki, lives in Paris.  The Boiling Point  interviewed Ms. Drigues about living in Paris as a Jew, and the situation during and after the attacks.

The interview was translated by senior Shana Chriki.

How long have you lived in France? 

It has been 50 years.

Do you live in the neighborhood where the Hyper Casher attack happened? 

I live pretty close but it wasn’t in my neighborhood.

Did you know about it right when it happened? 

I knew right away. I was in the kitchen cooking and my niece came running down to get me because she saw it on the news. We went up and watched news all together.

Was the neighborhood of the attack a Jewish neighborhood? 

It’s not Jewish like Pico. But there are a lot of Jews that live in that neighborhood. There are many kosher restaurants, many markets and many synagogues – like four or five synagogues.

Have you ever shopped at the market that was attacked? 

Yes, Hypercasher [“Super-Kosher”] is actually a chain store and I have one right next to my house, but my aunt also lives in that area so I’ve shopped there before. It’s like Glatt Market except that there are a couple of them.

How is the market — is it nice? 

Everybody shops there. It’s not like there are four in one corner. Where the attack happened there was only one Hypercasher. Everyone who wants to eat kosher eats there. It’s not like Glatt, because it’s a very fancy market.

Where were you when the attack happened? 

I was home in the kitchen and my niece came running to get me so that I could watch the news upstairs.

Do you know anyone who was caught in the attack? 

My nephew’s friend was actually in the walk-in freezer when the attack happened and he called the cops right away.  He heard bizarre noises so he ran in there to protect himself.

How was the day for you and the other Jews in france? Everyone was panicking.  So many Jews are making aliyah, and I think that this attack sparked the aliyah mentality. Everyone was so scared, the police closed even the markets that were in my neighborhood. All kosher supermarkets were closed. They took the kids out of school and put police everywhere. Now, there is literally the army outside of the Jewish schools. It’s horrible. I went to the dentist the other day and passed by a Jewish school, and all of a sudden I saw the whole military standing in front of the school. It was scary.

Was anyone surprised at how the president of France, Francois Hollande, responded to what happened?  Did people expect the president to be terrific? 

Everyone thought that what he said was marvelous. He came out on a Sunday to protest and it was really beautiful to see. I didn’t expect the president to be this great, but at the same time I think that what he did was normal to an extent. What was going on in France was terrible and he had to speak up.

Are you thinking about moving? 

I’m thinking about moving, but more because of my children than because of the anti-Semitism.

Does you feel more welcome in France now because of the outpouring support, or has it always been like this?

I don’t feel more welcome in France, but I believe that maybe that day will come.