Why Sarah Halimi Mattered

By Tyler Samuels

Dr. Sarah Halimi studied medicine for seven years and was a family doctor for many years, according to her son. A mother of three, when she retired and her husband died; she went back to work at pre-school in Paris. Some would call this life a boring existence, but it was her own quiet existence she could be proud of. Sadly, Dr. Halimi never got to enjoy her quiet existence with her family. In 2017, in April, her murderer, someone who lived in the same apartment, brutally beat and tortured her. He then threw her off out the window of the balcony. According to French media, the police could not determine if she died being pushed or if she had died long before, to the savageness of her murderer.

One would think of her murderer would be tried, sentenced to life imprisonment for a murder that was a hate crime. As she lay dead outside, her murderer yelled, “I killed Shaytan!” and to add insult to injury said “God is Great” as well. However, that did not happen. Since he smoked marijuana, the court found they could not hold him responsible, and that he was unfit. In 2021, bringing more pain to her family, the Court of Cassation which is France’s last court of appeal; found that Dr. Halimi’s murderer was not criminally liable because of his heavy use of marijuana during the murder.

The sad thing about this is, I find similarities between Dr. Halimi and other people of colour who have been killed unjustly or murdered. Whether the state kills them (police) or whether it is a hate crime and the consequence is the person is murdered, and the state refused to prosecute; it is very similar.

Years ago in an article I wrote for Tablet, I said being Black in America is a death sentence. It is now the case that being Jewish in France is also a death sentence. Some may argue that I am being dramatic, however how does one explain the murder of Mireille Knoll, a 85-year-old French-Jewish holocaust survivor? Who was brutally murdered in which one suspect said, “She’s a Jew, she has money.” A murder that happened in 2018. Or the list of French Jews who have been killed in France for more than a decade now.

We live in a world now that has bred unprecedented levels of Antisemitism. As Jews of Colour we face not just racism from not only the Jewish community. We face the same antisemitism from non-Jews like any other Jew would. There won’t be a special card that we can get out of a violent antisemitic attack, we face the brutal truth that there are those who just despise Jews.

However, we must build a fair world, not a tolerant world. We should never strive just for tolerance, but full accountable acceptance for all those who just want to be left alone with their families in peace. No one deserves to be murdered just because they are Jew, no one deserves to be killed just because they might have fit the description.

We must do better, we must call out hate of all kinds better. Dr. Halimi’s memory should be the one that she had with her family.

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