JERUSALEM – In a video that has gone viral, Zvika Klein, an orthodox Jew and Israeli journalist, decided to walk around the streets of Paris and film the reactions of passersby.
Surreptitiously, he recorded Parisians' responses as he walked silently for 10 hours in their midst. As he does in daily life, Klein wore a kippah (skullcap) and tzitzit (tassels) at his waist. He also hired a bodyguard, not shown on the video, just in case there was trouble.
The experiment was inspired by a similar piece of street anthropology in October, titled "10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman," which also went viral and inspired numerous parodies.
Klein’s two-minute video has drawn more than 1 million viewers since it was posted on YouTube two days ago.
The interest has mainly come because of the overt anti-Semitic comments and intense negative reactions that Klein faced from passers-by.
“Are you all right? Are you Jewish?” taunts one person, others call out “Jew” and “homo.” The more menacing threaten him or even spit at him as he silently walks through predominantly Muslim neighborhoods in the city, as well as some tourist areas.
“I did not really know what to expect. I hoped no one would put a knife in me or shoot me,” said Klein, the Jewish affairs correspondent for the Israeli news site NRG and the religious daily newspaper Makor Rishon.
Shadowed by the bodyguard, Klein hid the camera inside the backpack of another colleague. He did not interact with any of those heckling him.
“French media said I was being provocative,” said Klein, who has drawn wide international media interest in the past few days. “But I was mild. I was not in your face.”
“I can understand that Israel is a political statement in Europe, but I was only displaying my religious views,” he said, recognizing that the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict can often be a source of contention among France’s Muslim population, which is the largest in Europe.
Klein’s Paris walk is particularly powerful because it took place in early February, less than a month after Islamist extremists killed 12 people, including two police officers, at the offices of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. Two days later, four French Jews were killed in a kosher supermarket in Paris.