Rotem David

How does it feel to be an Israeli at Paris now

Since October 7th antisemitism has been increasingly rising! 

I interviewed Nika Berdichevsky, Israeli student in Paris to check the current situation of Jews in France.  

Nika, is an 18 years old from Israel, Tel Aviv, she was leading “Strike For Future” the Isreali branch of a global climate mouvment, Nika arrived to Paris at the end of September to learn about Europe’s efforts to deal with climate change and about Europe’s transition to a more sustainable life.  

On the 7th of October, Nika woke up because her phone didn’t stop ringing,” I had a lot of sirenes alerts, at the beginning it seemed really strange, then I called my family and asked what happens, they told me to not to stress, that everything is fine although the news were saying that 50+ terrorists entered Israeli territory” 

“In my worst dreams I couldn’t imagine waking up to this kind of news” she says. 

 What were the reactions of the French citizens to Israel’s situation?  

At the beginning I didn’t know until what level I, myself understood the gravity of the situation of what happened, it took time to understand it and to *realize what was going on* 

About how in France the situation was perceived, at the beginning I think it was just more like “daily news” until all over social media photos and videos of kidnapped grandmothers started spreading , I think it was a crucial game changer, people saw things they don’t see usually, it helped to see what was going on, even for Israeli people those images were difficult. 

Three days after the 7th October all around France and in Paris which is where I am there was a big March to stand in solidarity with Israel “march en soutien d’Israël* personally on the third day after what happened I still didn’t understand it actually happened. Everything seemed to happen so quickly.  

 I was afraid going to the March, but seeing it after on the internet, on social media, so many people, so many stakeholders, so many people from different communities marching together to stand with Israel and at the end singing the “Tikkva” and after the “Marseilles” was very emotional!!  

Were there any anti-Israel activities in France? 

I know that there were a lot of pro Palestine prostates, last week “Jean-luck Mélenchon” who is the leader of the political party “la France insoumise” led a big march demanding a long-term cease-fire, at the beginning the government tried to band those manifestations but they happened, nevertheless. 

I crossed one of them while waking in Paris, and as an Israeli it was a little bit scary, since the war started, I stopped speaking Hebrew outside home, also because my phone and messages that I receive are in Hebrew I stopped using my phone in the metro and tried to avoid using it or writing messages in Hebrew in public spaces, during the first weeks I had this feeling that on my forehead it is written the I’m from Israel.  

What were the reactions of public figures in France ?   

It took 2-3 days until the high stakeholders in the government addressed the situation, on the 12th of October the president, Emmanuel Macron expressed and as I was watching the speech with my friends, I felt a lot of things at the same time, wanting to be in Israel, to come back, but having this support on the ground in Paris. 

What I needed to hear is to know that France stands with Israel, that French people stand with Israel.  

Unfortunately, when Israel started to defend itself the President of France was a little bit between both sides and didn’t express a clear statement about the situation, as the numbers of killed Palestinians were raising people didn’t distinguished between the difference of a terror attack on civilians and a country that uses its own right to defend itself.  

Did you get any support from your friends in France? 

My friends asked me many times how am I, how is my family and friends.  

Personally I didn’t want to develop too much because taking about those things in the first days was hard and I couldn’t find inside me the force to explain what happened as I was figuring it out as time was passing. 

Are you afraid to travel outside of Israel due to the current situation? 

At the beginning yes. 

Absolutely yes. 

Until someone told me that the fact that I’m from Israel is not written on my forehead, last week (28.12.2023) already in Israel I met with students who came from all over France to hear and to see what happened in Israel, those kinds of initiatives show that Israel is not alone, I’m sure that when the students will be back to France they will explain and tell about what they saw here, about the truth.  

When I was In paris after what happened I had the opportunity to meet of MK “Astrid Panosyan-Bouvet” who explained to me that in France many young people saw what happened as part of the israeli-palestinian conflict, and that is a gap that I see as crucial to change.   

Being in place where those things happened allowed me, after the emotions passed to explain what was happening and to simply deliver the facts. 

About the Author
By the age of 16, I created a project on social media called "Teens for Israel" to educate the younger generation on how to use their social media skills to improve Israel's image online. 2 years later I filed a position as a spokeswoman of a political youth headquarters, I manage a team of 30 ambitious teenagers and lead online social projects. In addition, I wrote columns for youth news websites about social issues in Israeli society and impacted youth with my articles by creating conversations about the topics I wrote about. Today I am a released IDF combat soldier who is soon to fly with a delegation to the USA to educate youth about Israel and is passionate about using media as a way to educate and raise awareness.