Last summer, the synagogues and Jewish neighborhoods in France came under attack. Beginning as demonstrations against Israel, the animosity quickly spread into what some called the Paris Intifada. Hundreds of mostly Arab and North African youths stormed through the streets screaming “Death to Israel”, “Death to Jews” and “Hitler Was Right”! Jewish stores were burned down, synagogues were attacked (one was firebombed) and Jews were physically harmed.
This vehement anti-semitism was not new to the Jews of France. For many years now, French Jews have been threatened, hurt and even murdered by the same extremist elements that lead this week’s on-going terrorist attacks in France. Feeling that their lives are in danger, over the past three years 20,000 French Jews have moved to Israel and one survey suggest that almost 3/4 of the remaining French Jews are considering leaving France.
As I read and listen to the media coverage of this week’s horrific on-going terrorist attacks, the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller (posted above), a German anti-Nazi religious leader, immediately came to mind.
Anyone who claims to be shocked by the on-going terrorist attacks in Paris has had their head in the sand. The Jews, well, our heads were ripped out of the sand long ago. We know all too well the hatred that exists out there. While we begin 2015 praying for peace and an end to hatred and violence, let’s also pray that this week’s brutal attacks wake up those who have been slumbering, those who were feeling removed from the terror that is infecting our world. May those who have just woken up join with those of us who have been wide awake for some time now and together may we find the strength to stand up to extremism and bring about tikun olam (healing of the world).
Please keep France and her people in your prayers this Shabbat.