Mother of murdered French Jew speaks out on what went wrong
By: Brett Kline
, March 22 (JTA) - Ruth Halimi is afraid. Since her son Ilan was tortured
to death in February, she hasn't had a moment's peace. Her life has been
"It's a nightmare," she says.
"Sometimes I think I'll wake up and find it isn't so, but it is. Ilan
is gone, and I must keep on living. I must keep on living."
In her modest apartment, she receives journalists but
insists that they take no pictures of her.
"I don't want my face in the newspapers, on
television or on the Internet," she says. "I'm afraid there are
more barbarians out there and that they'll find me."
Ilan Halimi, 23, was left for dead in the train
station of a
suburb on Feb. 13 after being kidnapped and tortured for three weeks by a
gang demanding ransom. He died on the way to the hospital.
More than 10 suspects have been arrested, including
the leader of the gang, Youssouf Fofana, who was extradited from the
, where his parents were born.
Suspects told police that they tried to kidnap Jews because "all Jews
are rich," and that they put cigarettes out on the victim's face
because "he was Jewish and we don't like Jews."
Halimi says something is wrong with the educational
has produced monsters," she says, her face thin and skin tight,
fraught by nerves and pain. "It's not about being Muslim, because all
the gang members went to secular, public schools. They have grown up with
no feelings, like mechanical monsters."
Most of the gang members were Muslim, of North
African Arab and black African origins, but others involved were not,
including the superintendent of the building where Halimi was held.
"They promised him 1,500 euros, so he gave them
an empty apartment to use and said nothing," Halimi said of the
superintendent. "What kind of a man is that?"
She answers her own question: "It's a man who
simply does not care."
Many residents reportedly knew someone was being
tortured in the basement, but did not intervene or alert authorities.
"It was an open secret in the neighborhood that
a Jew was being held and tortured, and nobody called the police
anonymously, not one person," she says, shaking her head.
"The elevator was blocked for 10 days and people
were guarding the door to the apartment, and nobody called the police. It
was not that all those neighbors were anti-Semitic. It's more that they
simply did not care."
She doesn't find it difficult to believe that most
French people do not think this was an anti-Semitic crime.
"Everyone agrees that this is a sick
crime," she says, "but beyond that, most French people simply do
not care, one way or the other. That's the way they are."
Halimi has been very critical of the French police.
She says they broke the first rule in the book by telling her to break off
contact with the kidnappers.
"Everyone knows you maintain contact; otherwise,
they become enraged, and that is exactly what happened," she said.
Even Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy "told me that the police had
failed. He said, 'I am taking this personally because I am the head of the
"I feel like the French police abandoned
me," she adds. "I think they wanted to catch the gang members,
but they were not thinking about Ilan. It was cold-blooded, with no
feeling, like they didn't care."
She is careful to say she has nothing against
"I grew up with Muslims in
," she says. "I never had any problems, never. The problem is
. I think the country has become sick from a lack of feelings, a lack of
Halimi says she always has been a religious Jew.
"I have always prayed to God," she says.
"I still pray every day. This is what gets me through every day.
Without my god, I would have collapsed already. They took my baby
She begins to cry. The tears flow. She does not try
to stop them. Her son-in-law Rafi is there. There are friends in the
apartment. People from her building stop by regularly.
"There are good people here," she says.
Halimi wants to leave
"Ilan always wanted to go the
," she says. "The whole family wants to go. Myself, I want to go
For the first time, she has a small smile on her
face, but it does not last.
The murder was front-page news for weeks, but now it
has been replaced by a new drama - rioting in the streets over a new labor
law for young people.
No trial date has been set, but Halimi trusts the
lawyer, Francis Spizner.
"He wants to tear these guys apart," she
Halimi's ex-husband has been talking to the press,
but she does not talk to him.
The tears have returned. The French Jewish community
is taking care of her needs; she and her family will not go hungry. But
she no longer feels at home in France. And her boy Ilan is gone forever.