“There’s been an attack in France. Four people were killed,” my French-Israeli friend Avraham said, reading off his iPhone. I remember feeling bad for about a second and then I kept walking. “It was at a Jewish school. Three children were shot.” Now I stopped. My first reaction, actually, was to say that I hope all the remaining Jews leave France and move to Israel. Then we were overcome with sadness, as we viewed the pictures and surfed around on our phones for details.
We’re so used to acts of terror in Israel. Yet, each time there is new grief and a new feeling of despair. The entire country shares in sorrow and in loss. This time, though, it was different. Not to say that it wasn’t publicized or that people didn’t know about the attack. The story has graced the covers of newspapers all week, black-and-white signs have been posted proclaiming the names of the deceased, and thousands of people attended the funeral in Israel of the four victims.
No moment of silence was observed, though. That was in France. No official ceremonies, either. The general feeling in Jerusalem was that this was not Israel’s tragedy. To the point, according to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the Israeli National Insurance Institute initially refused to pay for flying the body of Rabbi Jonathan Sandler and burying him in Israel, on the grounds that he was not an Israeli citizen. This was France’s loss.
Indeed, all of the Israeli media covering the story focused on France, with the exception of a brief quote or two from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. There were articles about the political effects; the solidarity between Muslims, Christians and Jews in Toulouse in the wake of the tragedy; the responses from Parliament; and the murderer and possible anti-Semitic motives. It was more of an international news story than a personal story.
Not to say that Israelis don’t care. Of course not. But, it’s like comparing immediate family to distant relations — the passing of someone close is always felt the most keenly. We did the minimum here to commemorate the tragic passing of fellow Jews. But we must do more. It is our responsibility to make sure that such a thing will not happen again.
French Jewish leaders all agree that security must be heightened at Jewish institutions because another attack is inevitable. There is nothing that can be done to prevent it. As one of my teachers said, “Jews in Europe are defenseless. They do not have an army, and security, and the ability to stand up against their enemies and to avenge themselves. Here, we are strong! We stand up, and fight. We cannot and will not let others take advantage of us!” The only way to truly help these Jews, is by getting them to move to Israel. Now they have the opportunity to get out, to leave their hate-filled countries and move here.
Richard Prasquier, the head of CRIF, a French- Jewish umbrella organization, insisted that Jews are safe in France. He wanted to send a clear message to the Israelis that French Jews do not need to make aliya, and that the French government is capable of protecting them. “Those politicians in Israel who say there is a need to make aliya now simply do not know our country,” he said in a March 20 Jerusalem Post article, “French Jewish Community Must Not Bow To Fear.”
Still, not all French Jews agree. Margaret Amouyal, who moved from Toulouse to Tel Aviv last year, was quoted in a New York Times article, “Toulouse Victims Buried In Israel,” on March 21. She left three children and five grandchildren behind in France. “Maybe now,” she said, “they will think of coming.”
We need them to come to Israel. Once they do, and all the Jews are united, we can share in our pain equally, as one nation and one people.