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My Parisian Family

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.

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13 comments on “My Parisian Family”

  1. Pingback: My Parisian Family - Breaking Israel News

  2. pesach aceman

    two things I wish to say. first when I and my daughter and several of her classmates at her ulpana went to a Shabbat in Gush Katif and over a 100 rockets fell from erev Shabbat to Sunday, I was scared and some of her friends were panicked into passivity. When we talked of moving to Gush Katif to help I said I was afraid of the rockets (I am widow and she is a lone child). Her reply was “If Hashem wants to take you, you can be anywhere – at home, in bed, in the car, on the toilet, anywhere. It struck me in my gut as true and so I have never feared like that again but I did check up on them when she and her new husband lived in Otneil, south of Hebron and when I travelled there, particularly driving at night, my prayers were very emotional. Second, there is no place like HOME for Jews. and if more gave up their excuses for living in the galut, then we would be a stronger nation, particularly religious Jews. All excuses only belittle our faith and decry the ‘promised land’ that we have had the miracle to live in reborn. So strong was our desire (my wife z”l and I) to return here, we decided that even in the 8th month of pregnancy to fly here so that the birth of our child (turns out to be our only child because of her bout with cancer at a young age took her) would be in Israel. Everyone told us I would not find work (ob/gyne md) etc but that never was a problem as I truly believe Hashem guided us and helped us all the way. So if the Lubavitch Rabbi and Soleveichik Rabbi had given up their egos then there would also be many more religious Jews calling Israel their home. But each person must follow their own fate. All I can say is that those who live in the galut, weaken Am Yehudi and those who live here with courage and love, even non-religious, strengthen Am Yehudi

  3. Preacher John

    “Demand”? “Instructing their police”? “Jailing preachers”? “Demanding they hold anti-Semitic news editors, journalists and politicians criminally responsible”? “The EU needs to stop supporting terror in Europe”?

    Lady, I don’t know what you are drinking. But if you can sell it, you’ll make millions.

    It astonishes me Jewish capabilities to ignore the presence and nature of Jew-hatred.

    They want to spit in your face and rape you and kill you and all the rest of you and you want to go around “demanding”? They want to extinguish Israel and kill all of her inhabitants and Israel is going to “demand” things? Israel’s best friend in history, the USA has turned against her and is willing to sit down while the crazy mullahs in Iran develop WMD and throw them at her and are preparing to then go “oh . . . well . . . that didn’t go all that well, did it? . . . good grief . . . well . . . whatchu gonna do, right? . . . what’s done, is done . . . what can we do now, right? . . . hoopsie . . . we really thought they wouldn’t . . .”

    Yeah, you go right ahead and “demand” all that stuff.

    Jews have a death wish.

    The only friends you have are your nuclear weapons. Better use them before the other side gets to use them first. What’s gonna happen? Is the world going to not like you? Here’s is a news flash for you: they don’t like you. But at least you are alive.

  4. Esther Whitmore

    Even with terror attacks in Israel, Jews are safer there than in Europe, especially Paris. Europe opened its doors to Muslims after helping Nazis kill Jews, who were devoted and peaceful citizens. These Muslims will pay back their hosts by turning Europe into an Isis-run caliphate, where Sharia law will reign.

    • Charlotte Wenz wallace

      You are so correct Esther. Sadly look at EU and their progressive ways. By abandoning their Christian faiths they have no defense against the Muslim pressure and antagonists who have taken over, or should I say allowed to control. The fact that England has allowed sharia law to be implemented has set a precedence that country will regret. Political correctness is crushing societies; just look at the U.S.
      Charlotte Wenz Wallace
      Cortland NY

  5. Davida Rosenberg

    Aside from enjoying the travel log of your story and completely understanding the new paradigm at hand of ‘where are we safe actually?’ … I noted the factually appropriate remarks you made of what should be done to put a stop to the rampant success of terrorists. PLEASE go one step further, and hold off writing your next book, UNTIL you
    formulate a new Petition in the Knesset whereby any visitor or citizen of Israel who is on a terror watch list, needs to simply be exiled out of the nation. Why wait for the inevitable? How absurd! No one who has appeared on any terror list anywhere should be granted permission to enter Israel, and the police should round them all up and begin deportation at once. We need to have a bi lingual monitor visit mosques and report hate speech to the police and have that Imam removed from his position. The most important point of all, which is my own voice crying out for sanity, is to declare all potential peace negotiations with the Arabs IRREVOCABLY ENDED, … until such time as they remove their hatred and threats against Israel from the Palestinian Charter. It’s the same disgust towards Iran and the deaf dumb and blind USA Presidential leadership who continues to have negotiations with them while they have declared their intention to kill us. How puny and pathetic has our elite accomplishments towards a civil world failed in such a short time.. by the hands of the enemy in the camp.

    It’s game over friends, but we can all opt to go down with the ship while fighting them to the last lover of mammon, Torahless politician and and enemy of YHVH.

    Davida Rosenberg

  6. AW


    But who will jail the editors who incite? the politician who hate Israel even more?

  7. Bob Goldstein

    Novelist,Play and Journalist. Naomi writes more like a novelist than a journalist, pure fantasy, dreams of an emotionally involved mother. I am a U.S. citizen,lived thirty years in Paris and have a daughter and two grandchildren living in Paris. They should get out. The 16th, 17th and 8th will become camps and the rest will leave. What is she wishing for her children, to live in fear, in humiliation and physical danger? It’s over, shades of 29,30 and 31.

  8. Ettie Krykskman

    Your article is right on target. We as Jews should not be forced to move from our homes because we don’t feel safe. I agree that it has gone on too long and something has to be done, but judging from all the hate that is unabashedly and vehemently disseminated here in the US and in Europe I think it will not happen any time soon. The haters are becoming more and more emboldened by movements such as BDS and by the infiltration of radical Islamists who seem to bring out the inherent hatred that has been simmering all along. I commend you for your excellent article and hope your voice and many others can make a difference. May G-d keep us all safe!

  9. jacqueline Koubi

    I am jewish and live in Paris. I do not feel safe. It is good we have soldiers protecting our schools and synagogues etc but for how long ? It won’t last. One day the government will decide there is no need anymore. What happened lately (the killing in the kosher store)is just because of them. they are so afraid of the muslim population. They protect them.

  10. Selma Prager

    I love your articles and always look forward to them, Naomi. I am an American who visited Israel twice, in 1956 ( Yes, that’s how old I am )and in 1987. I left a piece of my heart there both times. What a huge difference in Israel between those 2 trips. I will continue to ” visit ” Israel via your beautiful articles. Thank you, Naomi

  11. Pam Stuart

    I love you dear Naomi. I have all your books and consider them the real treasures on my bookshelf.

    My dream is to see Israel before I die. I am now suffering with a terminal lung disease. However, I haven’t given up my dream.

    Your are a courageous lady. Thank you for all you do, and may you always know my prayers are with you and yours. Pam

    P.S. I once got a letter from Eli Wisel commenting on how well he like a poem I sent him. Another treasure in my life.

  12. Ruth Berman

    We have the opposite situation. Two of our children with grandchildren and great grandchildren, live in Israel. Jerusalem and Tiberias.
    We also called when we there was danger, terroism etc. inch of the areas and told them they could come back to the USA and we would help them.. We began to understand the situation when 9/11 happened in NYC and we lived there at the time. We received calls from them.”.you can come and live here and we would help you get settled”
    We Jews have never really been safe anywhere. it’s the nature of the hate too many have for us. and the too many are usually in leadership.
    We have to help each other and continue to support verbally and financially our institutions and organizations around the wold and in israel that are there for us.

    thank you for bing such a voice.

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