Shabbat Evening Service
From the desk of Rabbi David Lyon
As news cycles go, it’s late to comment as urgently as others did after the peace rally in Paris. But, I write for a Friday deadline. Nevertheless, I can’t stop myself from saying it, too. The demonstration of world leaders was unbearable; a sham, to quote a national commentator. I like a good rally as much as the next person, especially after such horrific events in a major European city. However, the sham was the line-up of familiar characters at the head of the parade.
Mahmoud Abbas stood in line with western world leaders? This man isn’t the leader of any country. He’s barely a reliable leader of the people he claims to govern in the West Bank. He has no record for peace-making. He harbors and protects Arabs who are among those who commit radical attacks in the name of Islamism. He would have done better to have stayed far away from the demonstration. Linking himself to a peace rally in Paris might even have created a risk to his political future, let alone his life.
The U.S. Ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, was lost in the crowd far from the front of the line. Yet, the greater misstep was President Obama’s absence from the demonstration. It’s difficult to demonstrate to the free world that you’re its leader when you’re not present and judgment in times of crisis has to be explained with an apology.
Two leaders in the wrong place at the wrong time are bad enough, but the insecurity that I feel as a Jewish leader finds its source elsewhere. Unlike Germany that still reels from the aftermath of WWII, and works to demonstrate to the world that it has distanced itself from its past, France has shown unimpressive leadership as a nation that could lead the way. While it brushed off Nazi occupation after WII, and reclaimed its relationship to Enlightened and romantic thinking in a modern age, it failed to build the bulwarks that would have prevented it from being threatened by growing radicalized groups.
Recently, an American correspondent asked the leader of the Jewish community in Paris about the Jews who are leaving for Israel. He was matter-of-fact and insightful. He said we have to remember what happened in WWII. He said, “The optimists went to Auschwitz. The pessimists went to New York.” It’s too early to know if France will do what is required to overwhelm the Islamists, physically, but, there’s also no evidence except for a demonstration in the streets that they can restart Europe’s vision for the 21st century. Beyond the Middle East where we seemingly countenance their fight for land and power, France needs to quicken its pace from a march in a parade about freedom to a run towards the democratic principles it claims to defend.
Today’s evidence suggests only that France is losing Jews. They will lose more Jews, because the Islamists have broken through to Paris streets. The Jews of France will make their own decisions, because they aren’t ignorant of history. Their hope lies in lands where they don’t have to place their future in France’s promises, or any nation that comes to their defense only when the bottom is dropping out. For now, their hope is in Israel.
The headlines are nothing but astonishing. It’s 2015 and Jews are making choices about whether they should leave their homes and their homelands. Tragically, the questions are the same. Thankfully, the answers are not. Israel is there for them. Support Israel so that it thrives as a destination for Jews who must find peace; give to Israel so that we won’t have to build memorials to this generation, too.
You may reach Rabbi David Lyon here.