Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Je suis Juif.
While watching the famous liberal media on TV, I saw Ron Allen, a reporter in Paris, talking about the number of Jews leaving France because of the rise in anti-Semitism in Europe in general, and in France in particular. The problem is real and substantial. Then, he used an expression that jangled my ears. He said that more and more Jews are “going back to Israel.”
The choice of words rankled because the Jews of France are generally not part of an immigrant community. Jews have lived in the south of France since at least the first century, brought by the Romans as slaves after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Indeed, the preeminent commentator on the Jewish Bible and the Oral Law, Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, known generally as Rashi, was born in Troyes, France in the year 1040.
Jews prospered after the French Revolution, which gave them truly equal citizenship for the first time anywhere in Europe. Their emancipation in 1791 was the signal for ghettos to crumble all over the Continent. This is what French Prime Minister Manuel Valls referred to when he said, “To understand what the idea of the republic is about, you have to understand the central role played by the emancipation of the Jews,” and, “if 100,000 Jews leave, France will no longer be France. The French Republic will be judged a failure.”
The endless list of famous French Jews includes two prime ministers, a Secretary of State, and literary giants such as Marcel Proust. Marc Chagall, “the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century,” made his home in Paris, having emigrated there as a young man before the first World War.
At least a quarter of the 330,000 Jews in pre-war France were murdered by the Nazi and their sympathizers. After the war, many Jews immigrated to France from Eastern Europe. These Jews were joined in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s by large numbers of Jews from France's predominantly Muslim North African colonies as part of the Jewish exodus from Arab and Muslim countries. The Jewish community is strong in France, and Jews are integrated into all levels of society. Negative attitudes towards Jews in France are less common than in other European countries. One of the victims in the Charlie Habdo was a much-beloved Jewish cartoonist.
And then, it occurred to me. Jews in France are, literally, exiles from the Holy Land, as am I. The Hebrew word for exile is galus. Nearly 2,000 years ago the Jewish nation was driven out of its homeland and sent off into a tear-soaked galus that lasts to this very day. We wait and yearn for the day when our galus and suffering will come to an end, when we will be returned to the Holy Land, with the coming of our redeemer, the Moshiach (Messiah) may it be speedily and in our times.