Terror in Europe

To Be A French Jew Right Now

In central Paris
In central Paris
Cécile Chambraud and Amos Reichman

PARIS — The Jewish community in Paris lived through the manhunt for the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in a state of extreme tension. The hostage-taking Friday in a Kosher supermarket, which resulted in the death of four Jewish men, confirmed their worst fears.

Francois Hollande called the act a "frightening act of anti-semitism." In a televised speech, the French president declared: "We must show our determination to fight against all those who could divide us, and, first and foremost, to be unswerving against racism and anti-Semitism."

The bloody events of this week come at an already difficult time for Jews in France. A direct line can be traced to the attacks on a Jewish school in the southern city of Toulouse that killed three children and a rabbi in March 2012, and the shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, which killed four people last May. Both attacks were committed by French nationals of Algerian descent who had links to radical Islamists.

Much discussed was the firestorm over the anti-Semitic jokes of French comedian Dieudonné, which was then followed last summer with the attacks on synagogues, accompanied by yells of "death to the Jews" on the fringes of protests over Israel's intervention in Gaza. The Jewish community has been affected by the increase in anti-Semitic acts — which doubled during the first ten months of 2014.

Last month, the attack of a young couple in the Paris suburbs revived the Jewish communities fears about their future in France. Two young people broke into the home of a Jewish family, expecting to find money there because, "The Jews, they have money." They kidnapped the couple that was in the house and raped the young woman. The poor showing at the rally after the attack was chilling for the Jewish community. More and more French Jews are choosing to emigrate than ever before. In 2014, the number of people leaving for Israel doubled; With 7,000 departures, more Jews immigrated to Israel from France than from any other country.

Safe in the Marais

Singled out before by Islamist terrorists, Jews were horrified though hardly surprised when news came that hostages had been taken at the Kosher supermarket in south-eastern Paris.

At 2 p.m., just after the standoff began, the police arrived at rue des Rosiers, a medieval-era street in Paris' 4th arrondissement that has historically been central to Jewish life in the city and still is home to numerous Jewish-owned businesses. The police asked many shop owners to close their stores for security reasons. The same thing happened in the Sentier neighborhood, in the 2nd arrondissement, where textile stores were asked to close early.

On Friday evenings, observant Jews go to the synagogue to celebrate the beginning of Shabbat, the day of rest. But this Friday, that was near impossible. On rue Pavée, a simple sign on the synagogue door said, "Dear believers, we regret that there are no prayers here tonight." Four young people finally opened the door anyway. They wore black hats and tefillin, they were nervous and said that the police, who were an unusually visible presence in the area, had asked them to "lock the door." By going through the adjacent buildings and using passages that only they know, the residents were able to gather in the synagogue at nightfall.

At the Grande Synagogue in Paris, on rue de la Victoire, the doors stayed closed — the first Sabbath services missed there since the Nazis occuped the French capital. At the liberal rue Copernic synagogue, a congregation that had already lived through a deadly attack in 1980 gathered. Bertrand, a congregation member, said that he "isn’t afraid," insisting that the services won’t be cancelled. "The only time we didn’t have services here was during the Second World War," he added.

Everyone has been touched by the events, and wondering what comes next. "This is only the beginning," said a cashier at a Kosher restaurant. Back on rue des Rosiers, an older gentleman with a white beard and dressed in black, thinks however that "nothing has changed," and "it’s always the same thing."

People’s opinions can be very deeply held. One young man who said he was confident in the security of the Jewish community in the Marais nonetheless said, in a defiant tone, that he wants to "leave for Israel, my only country."

Rachel, a 50-year-old woman with gloved hands and covered hair, spoke in front of the synagogue on rue Saint-Didier, with a somewhat more skeptical eye toward the prospect of living in Israel. "There, it’s like this every day," she said. "I hope that this will help people understand each other better."

Sasha, an engineering student, stopped to talk after buying sushi in a Kosher restaurant. "The terrorists are hurting Muslims," he said. "This will be terrible for them and they haven’t done anything wrong." Then a political prediction for France: "It’s unavoidable; we’ll end up with the extreme right in power."

Marc Konczaty, who heads France's Liberal Jewish Movement, condemns the anti-Semitic targeting of the Kosher supermarket. For him, though, "it is, above all, France that is under attack." Konczaty calls on all to "continue to live, be proud of who we are, of our democracy." That is why, like all representatives of the Jewish community, he is taking part in Sunday's mass demonstration in Paris to defend the values of the French Republic.

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7 Ways The Pandemic May Change The Airline Industry For Good

Will flying be greener? More comfortable? Less frequent? As the world eyes a post-COVID reality, we look at ways the airline industry has been changing through a pandemic that has devastated air travel.

Ready for (a different kind of) takeoff?

Carl-Johan Karlsson

It's hard to overstate the damage the pandemic has had on the airline industry, with global revenues dropping by 40% in 2020 and dozens of airlines around the world filing for bankruptcy. One moment last year when the gravity became particularly apparent was when Asian carriers (in countries with low COVID-19 rates) began offering "flights to nowhere" — starting and ending at the same airport as a way to earn some cash from would-be travelers who missed the in-flight experience.

More than a year later today, experts believe that air traffic won't return to normal levels until 2024.

But beyond the financial woes, the unprecedented slowdown in air travel may bring some silver linings as key aspects of the industry are bound to change once back in full spin, with some longer-term effects on aviation already emerging. Here are some major transformations to expect in the coming years:

Cleaner aviation fuel

The U.S. administration of President Joe Biden and the airline industry recently agreed to the ambitious goal of replacing all jet fuel with sustainable alternatives by 2050. Already in a decade, the U.S. aims to produce three billion gallons of sustainable fuel — about one-tenth of current total use — from waste, plants and other organic matter.

While greening the world's road transport has long been at the top of the climate agenda, aviation is not even included under the Paris Agreement. But with air travel responsible for roughly 12% of all CO2 emissions from transport, and stricter international regulation on the horizon, the industry is increasingly seeking sustainable alternatives to petroleum-based fuel.

Fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund.

In Germany, state broadcaster Deutsche Welle reports that the world's first factory producing CO2-neutral kerosene recently started operations in the town of Wertle, in Lower Saxony. The plant, for which Lufthansa is set to become the pilot customer, will produce CO2-neutral kerosene through a circular production cycle incorporating sustainable and green energy sources and raw materials. Energy is supplied through wind turbines from the surrounding area, while the fuel's main ingredients are water and waste-generated CO2 coming from a nearby biogas plant.

Farther north, Norwegian Air Shuttle has recently submitted a recommendation to the government that fees imposed on the airline industry should be funneled into a climate fund aimed at developing cleaner aviation fuel, according to Norwegian news site E24. The airline also suggested that the government significantly reduce the tax burden on the industry over a longer period to allow airlines to recover from the pandemic.

Black-and-white photo of an ariplane shot from below flying across the sky and leaving condensation trails

High-flying ambitions for the sector

Joel & Jasmin Førestbird

Hydrogen and electrification

Some airline manufacturers are betting on hydrogen, with research suggesting that the abundant resource has the potential to match the flight distances and payload of a current fossil-fuel aircraft. If derived from renewable resources like sun and wind power, hydrogen — with an energy-density almost three times that of gasoline or diesel — could work as a fully sustainable aviation fuel that emits only water.

One example comes out of California, where fuel-cell specialist HyPoint has entered a partnership with Pennsylvania-based Piasecki Aircraft Corporation to manufacture 650-kilowatt hydrogen fuel cell systems for aircrafts. According to HyPoint, the system — scheduled for commercial availability product by 2025 — will have four times the energy density of existing lithium-ion batteries and double the specific power of existing hydrogen fuel-cell systems.

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce is looking to smash the speed record of electrical flights with a newly designed 23-foot-long model. Christened the Spirit of Innovation, the small plane took off for the first time earlier this month and successfully managed a 15-minute long test flight. However, the company has announced plans to fly the machine faster than 300 mph (480 km/h) before the year is out, and also to sell similar propulsion systems to companies developing electrical air taxis or small commuter planes.

New aircraft designs

Airlines are also upgrading aircraft design to become more eco-friendly. Air France just received its first upgrade of a single-aisle, medium-haul aircraft in 33 years. Fleet director Nicolas Bertrand told French daily Les Echos that the new A220 — that will replace the old A320 model — will reduce operating costs by 10%, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% and noise footprint by 34%.

International first class will be very nearly a thing of the past.

The pandemic has also ushered in a new era of consumer demand where privacy and personal space is put above luxury. The retirement of older aircraft caused by COVID-19 means that international first class — already in steady decline over the last decades — will be very nearly a thing of the past. Instead, airplane manufacturers around the world (including Delta, China Eastern, JetBlue, British Airways and Shanghai Airlines) are betting on a new generation of super-business minisuites where passengers have a privacy door. The idea, which was introduced by Qatar Airways in 2017, is to offer more personal space than in regular business class but without the lavishness of first class.

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport

Aerial view of Rome's Fiumicino airport


Hygiene rankings  

Rome's Fiumicino Airport has become the first in the world to earn "the COVID-19 5-Star Airport Rating" from Skytrax, an international airline and airport review and ranking site, Italian daily La Repubblica reports. Skytrax, which publishes a yearly annual ranking of the world's best airports and issues the World Airport Awards, this year created a second list to specifically call out airports with the best health and hygiene standards.

Smoother check-in

​The pandemic has also accelerated the shift towards contactless traveling, with more airports harnessing the power of biometrics — such as facial recognition or fever screening — to reduce touchpoints and human contact. Similar technology can also be used to more efficiently scan physical objects, such as explosive detection. Ultimately, passengers will be able to "check-in" and go through a security screening anywhere at the airports, removing queues and bottlenecks.

Data privacy issues

​However, as pointed out in Canadian publication The Lawyer's Daily, increased use of AI and biometrics also means increased privacy concerns. For example, health and hygiene measures like digital vaccine passports also mean that airports can collect data on who has been vaccinated and the type of vaccine used.

Photo of planes at Auckland airport, New Zealand

Auckland Airport, New Zealand

Douglas Bagg

The billion-dollar question: Will we fly less?

At the end of the day, even with all these (mostly positive) changes that we've seen take shape over the past 18 months, the industry faces major uncertainty about whether air travel will ever return to the pre-COVID levels. Not only are people wary about being in crowded and closed airplanes, but the worth of long-distance business travel in particular is being questioned as many have seen that meetings can function remotely, via Zoom and other online apps.

Trying to forecast the future, experts point to the years following the 9/11 terrorist attacks as at least a partial blueprint for what a recovery might look like in the years ahead. Twenty years ago, as passenger enthusiasm for flying waned amid security fears following the attacks, airlines were forced to cancel flights and put planes into storage.

40% of Swedes intend to travel less

According to McKinsey, leisure trips and visits to family and friends rebounded faster than business flights, which took four years to return to pre-crisis levels in the UK. This time too, business travel is expected to lag, with the consulting firm estimating only 80% recovery of pre-pandemic levels by 2024.

But the COVID-19 crisis also came at a time when passengers were already rethinking their travel habits due to climate concerns, while worldwide lockdowns have ushered in a new era of remote working. In Sweden, a survey by the country's largest research company shows that 40% of the population intend to travel less even after the pandemic ends. Similarly in the UK, nearly 60% of adults said during the spring they intended to fly less after being vaccinated against COVID-19 — with climate change cited as a top reason for people wanting to reduce their number of flights, according to research by the University of Bristol.

At the same time, major companies are increasingly forced to face the music of the environmental movement, with several corporations rolling out climate targets over the last few years. Today, five of the 10 biggest buyers of corporate air travel in the US are technology companies: Amazon, IBM, Google, Apple and Microsoft, according to Taipei Times, all of which have set individual targets for environmental stewardship. As such, the era of flying across the Atlantic for a two-hour executive meeting is likely in its dying days.

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