Parisian Kosher Store Reopens After Hostage Crisis

by Kirsten O'Regan

A kosher grocery store that became embroiled in the extended Charlie Hebdo Paris attacks has reopened, two months after it was the site of a deadly hostage crisis. Kalashnikov-toting Amedy Coulibaly held shoppers hostage in the Hyper Cacher on Jan. 9, murdering four men before he was killed by the police who stormed the building. The supermarket opened its doors Sunday after extensive repairs and with an entirely new staff.

“We were stunned by the attack, but there was never any question that we would reopen,” Laurent Mimoun, a store manager, told The Telegraph. French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve attended the reopening in the Porte de Vincennes area of the French capital, and triumphantly announced that the resilient food-store demonstrated that “life is stronger than everything.” He also recalled its crisis. “You can see the layout,” he said, “you see the difficulties there were in the intervention.”

The attack came two days after French-Algerian brothers Cherif and Said Kouachi murdered 12 people at the Paris headquarters of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. At the time of Coulibaly's actions, the Kouachi brothers were holding another person hostage at a print shop in the nearby town of Dammartin-en-Goële; Coulibaly threatened to murder his captives if police attacked the brothers, claiming he was working in tandem with them and had pledged allegiance to ISIS. (Oddly, although Coulibaly trumpeted his ISIS connection, the Kouachis claimed to be working for al Qaeda.)

Coulibaly claimed he was righteously targeting Jewish people to avenge Muslim lives lost in Palestine. As intended, the attack struck fear into the heart of the European Jewish community. France’s 400,000 Jews were already nervous, due to an increase in anti-Semitic violence in the country, and the Hyper Cacher crisis seemed to confirm their worst suspicions. “We are past red alert at this stage, it’s all hands on deck because, sadly, the question is not whether the French Jewish community will be targeted, but when,” vice-president of the National Bureau for Vigilance Against Anti-Semitism Chlomik Zenouda told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency before the attack.

Anti-Semitism crops up in all sorts of places with various horrifying rationales, but author of Anti-Judaism David Nirenberg told The New Yorker that anti-Semitism as expressed in Islamist rhetoric has its own particular nuances. He said:

Today, all sides in inter-Islamic power struggles try to represent their rivals as supporters of Israel. For the hardcore Islamists, Judaism represents not just the Jewish people but the corrosive, materialist modernity that threatens piety and godly rule.

In January, Coulibaly killed four men (all Jewish, later buried in Israel) as he entered the store, but thankfully did not get the chance to carry his threats out to completion. After an extensive police lock-down and a special-forces operation, 15 hostages were freed and Coulibaly lay dead. The Kouachi brothers were also killed after an extensive police manhunt.

Lior Mizrahi/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Today, BBC reports that Hyper Cacher, like many other Jewish institutions in France, is under constant police guard. Nevertheless, the management expressed hope in their statement accompanying the renovated store’s inauguration. “With this reopening, we once again reaffirm that life will always be stronger than barbarity,” they said.

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