As he was punched to the ground, a young man who was accompanying the rabbi tried to protect him. The attacker then drew a knife and stabbed the young man in the abdomen.
Although the attack occurred next to a cafe, none of the patrons tried to intervene.
The rabbi, identified as Yehuda Malul of the Menuchat Shalom (Peaceful Tranquility) synagogue, said the incident was particularly frightening as it happened at the same time as Palestinians were stabbing Jews in Israel. In addition, the attacker “continued to curse the Jews” even after he was arrested.
Although original news stories about the incident reported that the attacker was a drunk and mentally untable man, Malul said that was not the case. In an interview with Actualite Juive, Malul said that he may have been tipsy, but “the perpetrator was not crazy.”
Further, Malul, who was also accompanied by his son, said they were specifically targeted because they were Jewish. “It’s because my son and I have beards and wear hats that we were attacked,” he said.
Police were able to apprehend the attacker after which the young man was rushed to the hospital, where doctors said his heavy coat had saved him from a critical injury.
Marseilles has been ranked as the most dangerous city in Europe.
The synagogue is located in the center of the city, where the incident took place. Marseilles’ Muslim population is between 30 and 40 percent. It is also home to one of the highest concentrations of religious Jews in France.
In Denmark on Friday, the Islamist organization Hizb-ut-Tahrir held a rally calling for sharia law for Europe as well as jihad to “free Palestine." An estimated group of 500 HT members, including women and children, took part in the rally, waving the HT flag, which is similar in appearance to the flag of the Islamic State.
The crowd chanted, “Muslim armies, do your duty. We have had enough of failure!” according to Marie Jensen, a journalist who was present.