When my daughter applied to work abroad in Toulouse during her second year of National Service, we were excited for her, thinking it would be a brief foray into another culture. When the time came to visit her midyear, we were delighted to find her having fun, but also longing to come home.
Moreover, we were thrilled that the men’s section of the local synagogue was filled with males over 40 and under 10.
Around May, however, to our astonishment, she started hinting about staying on, even studying at a French university.
The key to the mystery came swiftly in the form of a very handsome, very religious Parisian student studying for his master’s degree in Toulouse and learning Talmud with the rabbi of the school where my daughter was teaching. It was not long before he and his lovely parents were sitting around our table in Ramot discussing wedding plans.
Originally, the young couple talked about plans to set up home in Israel. But when the boy’s father tragically passed away only a few months before their wedding, all plans were put on hold. There was now a widow and a rudderless family business. Someone had to run it and provide for the family left behind.
My son-in-law was the eldest. With great devotion and considerable personal sacrifice, he stepped in to help his mother and unmarried siblings.
That was fourteen years and six children ago.
Through many ups and downs, I finally came to understand and accept that this had been God’s plan for my daughter. She was going to live in Paris with my wonderful, hardworking, kind, deeply religious Parisian son-in-law and adorable grandchildren for the foreseeable future.
We go to see them often, and they come to visit us, always with a sense of joy to be in Israel. My grandchildren often talk about making aliya. But with the oldest barely 13, they aren’t going to be leaving home any time soon.
We have developed a pattern, my daughter and I. Every time there is a terrorist attack in Israel, she checks up on us. And when something happens in Paris that involves the Jewish community, I quickly contact her. Unfortunately, lately this kind of communication has been in overdrive.
With the horrific murders in the Hyper Cacher supermarket coinciding as it did with my daughter’s return from her vacation in Israel, she received an inordinate number of “When are you moving to Israel already?” communications from her friends and family, including me – which annoyed her no end.
“Why?” I asked her.
Because, she answered, we have a life here, family here. Not to mention our livelihood. Our children are settled in Jewish schools; they have friends and are getting an excellent education.
I didn’t need to be reminded that she herself is a cherished and respected member of an amazingly supportive and loving Jewish community. During her last pregnancy, which confined her to bed rest for weeks, the community brought her meals, drove her children to and from school, babysat and helped the kids with their homework. And when she gave birth last Shavuot at the end of her sixth month to a tiny preemie, they arranged through the Internet for thousands of French Jews to say prayers for her and her baby’s well-being, prayers which were evidently very effective. Little Nava is now a plump, active, beautiful nine-month-old.
Soon after giving birth, my daughter and her husband opened a new Jewish school near their home outside Paris that enjoys strong support not only from Jews, but also from the mayor and city council, who provided the building. It is run by my son-in-law in his “spare” time, and my daughter teaches Hebrew and English there.
A shudder went down my spine when I read that Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist responsible for the cold-blooded murder of five Jews in the Porte de Vincennes’s Hyper Cacher supermarket, as well as the shooting of police officer Clarissa Jean-Philippe in Montrouge, had a map in his pocket pointing to all the Jewish schools in Paris.
It reminded me of that day in March 2012 when an equally crazed Islamic butcher invaded a Jewish school in Toulouse, killing beautiful little Myriam Monsonego, the eight-year-old daughter of Rabbi Yaacov Monsonego, head of the Jewish school where my daughter did her National Service.
Also murdered was Jonathan Sandler – one of my daughter’s former students – and his two young sons, six-year-old Arieh and three-year-old Gabriel.
But it was only during a very recent long-distance conversation between my daughter and myself about her coming back to Israel to keep safe that I finally realized how ridiculous an argument that is.
She reminded me of the deaths in the Har Nof synagogue. And I reminded myself that my daughter had been in Paris when the rest of the family was involved in a terrorist attack, at the Seder in Netanya’s Park Hotel in 2002.
While we can promise everyone who makes aliya that they will be part of Jewish history, enjoy a Jewish experience unique in the last 2,000 years and be part of building a society, community and country that is a magnificent promise to all future generations of Jews, we cannot, for the moment, promise anyone safety from terror attacks. Nor can we guarantee them financial well-being. So we might as well cut the hypocrisy and the self-satisfied “What did you expect?” when we hear of Diaspora Jews suffering at the hands of Muslim maniacs.
Instead, I suggest we work on another agenda. It’s time we Israeli Jews demand that all the countries in which our fellow Jews live commit themselves wholly to their safeguarding. This includes instructing their police to pick up Muslim terrorists like Coulibaly and his friends – such as Charlie Hebdo murderers Said and Cherif Kouachi, who were known al-Qaida gunmen and appeared on both American and French terrorist lists.
It includes jailing preachers who incite hatred in the mosques now spread throughout the length and breadth of their lands. And it includes demanding they hold anti-Semitic news editors, journalists and politicians criminally responsible for the results of the Jew hatred they encourage through their thinly veiled, irrational expressions of hatred for Israel.
In addition, the EU needs to stop supporting terror in Europe by allowing terrorists ridiculous avenues to resist deportation, such as the “right to family life.”
This ties British hands and prevents the country from deporting hundreds of terrorists – including Baghdad Meziane, a convicted guerrilla closely associated with the recruitment of both Coulibaly and the Kouachi brothers. Despite a British judge saying he was a dangerous man and that he should serve his full sentence, then be deported, he was released from prison five years early and allowed to return to his family home in Leicester.
This laxity is costing innocent lives, both Jewish and non. It’s got to stop.
While the Israeli government should continue to encourage aliya, it should not be using instances of atrocities against Jews around the world as a platform for these appeals.
Yes, I want my daughter and son-in-law and grandchildren to come home – where even if I’m not safe, I feel safe. But I don’t want them to come if it means my son-in-law has to be in France all week to work and only fly home on weekends. Jews also have a right to family life. So in the meantime, I want my Parisian family and all Diaspora Jews to be guarded and cherished wherever it is they choose to live.
I am happy to report that soon after the Hyper Cacher horror, a platoon of French soldiers moved into Jewish schools 24/7, sleeping and eating there. Jewish mothers are gratefully preparing their meals. While I am thankful, the fact that this arrangement is deemed necessary terrifies me.
But is that not the nature of terrorism? Acts of violence so random and meaningless they cannot be predicted, and thus keep everyone in a constant state of fear? Jews everywhere should make aliya. But they should come because they want to, not because they have to. Along with every other human being on the planet, Jews deserve the right to choose where they live, and the ability to live there without fear.
It’s time we all demanded that right, in the name of freedom and human decency.
This article was originally published in the Jerusalem Post on 30 January, 2015.