Jews of France hide like Marranos and turn towards Israel
Best-selling French-Jewish writer Eliette Abécassis has lost hope in her native country;:Jews have contributed to French culture for 2,000 years but rampant anti-Semitism is forcing them to bring their ideals and values to their ancient homeland.
This is the situation in which we find ourselves stuck. Having to hide like the Marranos. Like Esther, my family is also originally from Spain. The Inquisition and the expulsion from Spain are part of our historical memory, as well as her ancestors’ past in Morocco, where the Jews lived as dhimmis - protected and humbled at the same time. But she knows that they found the country to be kind and that they had friendly, even warm, relations with the Muslims. "What happened?" she asks herself. "What is happening to us?"
The steps taken by the government following the attacks in January 2015 and the forceful and sincere words of Prime Minister Manuel Valls, who rightly said that “France without its Jews is not France,” can reassure the community and encourage it to stay in France. But how long can we live under the protection of the army and in a society that is becoming more and more hostile towards Jews?
And I do not just mean Islamists, but also the media’s anti-Israel obsession and the widespread anti-Zionism throughout the political spectrum - from the extreme Right to the extreme Left. Let us not be mistaken: every society reinvents its anti-Semitic worldview. In the Middle Ages the Jews killed Jesus. In the 1930s they were the inferior race. Today, the reason is Israel.
No one is more French than the Jews
The rise of anti-Semitism, I think, is always a symbol of a deep social crisis. The current crisis we have known for a long time. The Republic’s Lost Zones, a book edited by Emmanuel Brenner that was published 15 years ago, points out all the elements that led to this crisis. He starts with the suburbs and spreads out to the whole society, and there was nothing done to put a stop to the attack on the French Republic’s values.
The government has given up on all fronts, especially on education. Recently the government cancelled Latin and Greek classes, which are the basis of our language and culture. Twenty years of compromise, concessions and even surrender, as the author Michel Houellebecq writes, led us into this disaster. I do not expect things to get better, and that is why I am distressed.
I am distressed because I love France. France is my country. I am a French writer, I appreciate the beauty of the language, I am nurtured by the French culture which has forged my being. France is also the land of the Jews. There are traces of Jewish presence in southern France beginning in 70 AD. In other words, no one is more French than the Jews.
Jews left their mark on the history of France and on its values, such as humanism, the Enlightenment, freedom, equality and fraternity. France, for its part, enabled French Jewry to build itself up differently from anywhere else in the world - from Rashi to the philosopher Jacob Gordin, Rabbi Leon Ashkenazi and Emmanuel Levinas, and even more importantly my father, Armand Abécassis.
The Kabbalah movement was born in France, in the town of Posquières. And it is no coincidence that a philosophical Judaism which has been widely influential was born in this country. No other country has ever produced so much wisdom and light, along with a literature so beautiful and rich. The appearance of France, the defender of humanism and reason, defeated by anti-Semitism, causes me worry, grief and even real trauma.
No choice but to make aliyah
If so, is it time to leave? Aliyah is horizon, desire, the longing of the Jewish people, from time immemorial. Now and forever. It is our ideal, we yearn for it. Sometimes aliyah becomes a necessity, urgent. And then it is, of course, a solution.
Even if one compares the current situation to that of the 1930s, today there is a Jewish state, and that changes everything. When living in the diaspora becomes unbearable, it becomes clear one has to leave and make aliyah. Not to evade danger, not to escape, but because the circumstances lead us to join our other country.
Since they do not want us in other places, we have to bring to Israel our ideas and values and build, based upon the strength of our disappointed hopes. Thus is the ideal rediscovered – this vibrant, intelligent and demanding country.