Michelle Rojas-Tal

Je suis Charlie, Je suis Ilan

The outrage over the Paris slayings is fitting, but where is the similar response when Jews are targeted?
People gather in solidarity of the victims of a terror attack against a satirical newspaper, in Paris, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. (Photo credit: AP/Thibault Camus)
People gather in solidarity of the victims of a terror attack against a satirical newspaper, in Paris, Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2015. (Photo credit: AP/Thibault Camus)

As thousands of Israelis waited for the snow to fall yesterday in Jerusalem, parents found themselves attempting to entertain their children indoors. Puzzles, music, games, drawing. My daughter’s 18-month old drawing skills probably served as more entertainment for me than her. I remain uncertain as to whether or not she will be a great sculptor or brilliant cartoonist. What I am certain of is that we will raise her to express herself freely; draw, write and speak as she believes, respecting herself and those around her.

The tragic attack that France experienced yesterday was a catastrophe. Not only is France, united as a nation in mourning; the entire world is. “Je suis Charlie.” We are Charlie. We unequivocally support you, cry with you, worry with you… There is no question that an attack against freedom of expression, despite however much debate it may ignite, is an attack against us all. It is an attack against the very bedrock of values that our nations are built upon. It is an attack against what democracy stands for, in all of its greatness and imperfection.

This tragic event has also raised other emotions. For the Jewish community in France, and the global one as well, terrorism did not strike France yesterday. It struck in 2006, with the torture and murder of Ilan Halimi. It reared its evil face once more with the brutal murder of Miriam Monsonego. Rabbi Jonathan Sandler. Arye Sandler. Gabriel Sandler. Where were the “Je suis Ilan. Je suis Miriam?” My heart broke after these attacks not only because of my connection to these people as a Jew, but because of their innocence; for the fact that I couldn’t help but think, it could have been me…

I don’t expect people to mourn the murder of an elderly Jewish man, being killed as he silently expresses his dedication to G-d in the early hours of the morning. Nor do I expect people to show rage for a family of five, being murdered in their home, after a beautiful Shabbat meal, including a four-month old baby, stabbed to death in her crib as she cried for her mother. That happened in my country. Those tragedies are ours. I can hope, wish and want for you to understand them and condemn them and mourn with me, as I do with you; to contextualize that the battle for the persistent, hateful ideology that is trying to plague your society is the same as the one we are battling…

But in the very least, I want the same outrage. We want the same outrage. When a café in Sydney was taken hostage, our prayers poured out for the innocent people who were being held. We prayed for their safe release. We cried in their mourning. When 12 innocent Parisians were gunned down, we were all Charlie. But before I am Charlie, I am Ilan. And Miriam. And Rabbi Sandler. Ruth Fogel. Baruch Mizrachi. I am, as we all should be, every innocent man, woman and child who has been murdered in cold blood, in the name of this ideology.

Jon Stewart in his commentary on the murders yesterday stated, “Comedy shouldn’t be an act of courage.” To which I add, neither should being an 8 year old girl, walking into a Jewish day school. Or a Jewish man, throwing his prayer shawl over his shoulders as he prepares to reinstate his faith in G-d. Nor should walking into an office building in downtown Manhattan, or a coffee shop in Australia. So yes, Je suis Charlie. We indeed are all Charlie. And as an Israeli, I am genuinely saddened that so many have been forced to wake up this morning knowing what that means. For we are Charlie each and every day; struggling to remain free in a world of hatred and evil. We are also eternally optimistic and perseverant and that, I hope as well, we can share with our French brothers.

About the Author
Michelle Rojas-Tal is a global speaker, trailblazer and advocate on Zionism, Jewish identity, and Israel engagement. Amongst her current projects, Michelle serves as the Zionist Scholar-in-Residence at Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America.