“Paris? Now? Isn’t that a bit dangerous?” asked my 14 year-old Israeli daughter when I consulted her on our Passover trip. “We’re only going to speak English there!” she instructed her 6 year old sister, whose second language is often draped in Hebrew like a hummus topped scone. “So will Minnie Mouse understand me if I speak in English?” my little one enquired, worrying about the Euro Disney etiquette.
The truth is that I debated for a long time whether I really wanted to take my family to France right now and if I was putting them at risk by doing so. We Israeli Jews are highly unfashionable these days, very evidently in Paris. Since the pledges to protect Paris’s Jews in the aftermath of the murderous kosher-deli attack, it seems that not much has changed. Cars were recently painted with “Jews to the oven” and a job in a ‘respectable’ design agency was advertised ‘if possible not Jewish.’ Zvika Klein’s experience in ’10 hours of walking in Paris as a Jew,’ firmly underlined that to identify yourself as a Jew in Paris is to open yourself to insults and abuse – that’s without the added Israeli element.
If it was up to me, I’d tell anyone who’s interested that I’m an Israeli, perhaps more readily because I’ve had to work pretty hard to become a passport-holding, Hebrew-speaking, chutzpah-tolerating citizen of my country. I’ve weathered a change of religion and nationality, waved my husband off to reserve duty 2 days after giving birth, held my breath through four wars, two intifadas and six changes of government, worked in the jungle that is the Israeli education system, given birth to three natives and adopted one German Jewish ‘guest’ son and before long will send my firstborn into the IDF .
Perhaps more than that, I’m a firm believer that dialogue is the way forward – I’d like that to take place at the top with our government, but it’s not happening there right now, so bottom-up is good too. People might judge or hate me just because I’m Israeli, but I’m willing to talk about that and listen to their side too – talk and listen is crucial here though, not shout and accuse. There are many wrongs and rights on both sides of this conflict and I do not have the perfect solution, but I can talk about one side of it from up close and personal.
Then again I have baggage. Two brown-eyed, brown-haired girls, who would die of embarrassment and fear at being targeted because they happen to be Jewish, and a husband who wants to go on vacation from the stresses and strains of daily life in Israel, not take it with him. I get it.
The very fact that I even have to think of these issues at all is surreal. Should I have to question the sanity of a visit to a democratic, western country which honors liberty, equality and fraternity as its founding principles? More importantly, the fact that 70 years after the end of the holocaust, French Jews have to live with these questions and fears on a daily basis is indigestible.
So we will go. We will aim to speak unsullied English so my girls will feel safe, and I will not wear my “L’Chaim” t-shirt, but if someone asks, I will not lie and if they are interested to know, I will be happy to discuss my country, in all its beauty and complexity.