Tuvia Book
Author, educator, Tour-Guide, artist

Jewish Life and Death in Paris

A couple of weeks ago I was with my daughter in Paris on the way to Israel and managed to get a sense of the mood of the French Jews in the silence before the recent terrorist storm. One could sum up the mood with one word: “FEAR.” I was the only person walking around the famed Marais Jewish district with a Kippah. Down the road was the parade ground in the Morlan Court of the Military School where just over a hundred years previously a massive crowd shouted, “La-mort-aux-Juifs!” (Death to Jews!) at the unfortunate Alfred Dreyfus (and his co-religionists). Things haven’t changed much in the ensuing years in the land of “Liberte, Égalité, Fraternité for our Jewish brothers and sisters.

Just as the Jews of France were targeted in the “Vel d’Hiv Roundup” during the Shoah, in which 13,000 French Jews, including thousands of children, were herded into a Paris cycling stadium, formally known as the Vélodrome d’Hiver, by French police acting on Nazi orders where thousands of Jews were held for several days and eventually deported to Auschwitz. (It took the French authorities 53 years to acknowledge their role in the arrest and deportation of their Jews), they are still targeted for the “crime” of being Jewish.

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“M
onument for the Vel d’Hiv Roundup.”  (Photo (c) T. Book ,2015)

We walked past a Jewish school and saw THREE lines of security around it including armed French police and a private Israeli security team. I saw people kissing cement doorposts with no visible Mezuzah attached, until someone informed me that the Jews scoop a hole out, insert a Mezuzah scroll in the space, and then refill it with cement so no one will notice this obvious sign of Jewish presence! There were armed soldiers on patrol in the streets and the ELAL counter at the airport was extremely heavily protected.

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“The Streets of Paris.” (Photo (c) T. Book, 2015)

I know Jews who emigrated from France and they told me that they felt that their lives were literally in danger. Everywhere their children went; to their Jewish school, to their youth movement meeting, to synagogue services they had to be escorted in groups with guards. Jews do not venture out wearing external signs of Judaism, such as kippot or Jewish themed jewelry. To live and die in France as a Jews is an empty and barren experience, containing only sadness and regret.

Now if this was the 1930’s, when there was “no where to run and nowhere to hide” I could understand, but there is a place to raise ones children with dignity and without fear. There is a place where one can stand proud and tall and declare “Je suis Juif!” That place is the “hope of two thousand years, the land of Zion.”

This past summer in the midst of “Operation Protective Edge” I vividly recall listening to a new Olah (immigrant) from France being interviewed upon her arrival to Israel and asked if she was scared. She answered that everywhere Jews are threatened. The difference is that here, in our own country, we can fight back and defend Jewish honour and dignity.

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Am Yisrael Chai! (Photo (c) T. Book, 2015)

About the Author
Dr. Tuvia Book was born in London and raised in both the UK and South Africa. After making Aliya at the age of 17 and studying in Yeshiva he volunteered for the IDF, where he served in an elite combat unit. Upon his discharge he completed his BA at Bar-Ilan University, as well as certification in graphic design. He then served as the Information Officer at the Israeli Consulate of Philadelphia, while earning a graduate degree in Jewish Studies. Upon his return to Israel, Dr. Book graduated from a course of study with the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, and is a licensed tour guide. Tuvia has been working in the field of Jewish Education, both formal and informal, for many years. He has guided and taught Jewish students and educators from around the English-speaking world for some of Israel’s premier educational institutions and programs. Tuvia has been guiding groups for Birthright Israel since its inception and, in addition, has lectured throughout North America, Australia, Europe and South Africa. Tuvia served as a Shaliach (emissary) for the Jewish Agency for Israel as the Director of Israel and Zionist Education at the Board of Jewish Education of Greater New York (Jewish Education Project). He was a lecturer/educational guide at the Alexander Muss Institute for Israel Education (AMIIE) in Israel for a decade. Tuvia has lectured at both Bar Ilan University and Hebrew University. He is the author (and illustrator) of the internationally acclaimed Zionism curriculum; “For the Sake of Zion; A Curriculum of Israel Education” (fifth edition, 2017, Koren) and is at present working on his next book, a history of the Jewish people. Tuvia has a doctorate in Israel education. His dissertation title is: “Through the Soldiers’ Eyes: Exploring the Influence of a Birthright Mifgash on the Israeli Soldier Participants.”
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