By: Uri Shalmon  | 

Standing with France and Commemorating the Fallen

November 13th, 2015 is a day that will go down in history. After the mass shootings and suicide bombings in and around Paris, France, which claimed 130 lives, people worldwide rose up in solidarity with France’s citizens. These attacks, orchestrated by ISIL, are the deadliest France has suffered since World War Two and consequently shocked the French population.

Yeshiva University also expressed its support by holding a few events. On Nov. 16th during the Pictures for Paris event, students had the opportunity to take pictures with the French flag. On the 17th a few European students reflected on their personal connections to the terrorist attacks at the YU for Paris event.

Josh Nagel opened the YU for Paris event by explaining that it was meant to offer perspective on the tragedy that occurred. The first speaker was Reben Journo, a freshman. Journo said that France is around 10% Muslim – that’s over six million Muslims – and such a high percentage is new to the French people. Previously, French Muslims would take part in the conflict in Israel by expressing their opinions locally which created danger for France’s Jews. Also, since people were accustomed to living with Muslims (although not in such large numbers) security was not as rigorous. Now, however, it is much more dangerous for everyone and Journo believes security will markedly increase because the thread extends beyond the Jewish community.

[caption id="attachment_4680" align="aligncenter" width="250"]French student Ruben Journo speaks with other students about his experience and feelings after the attacks in Paris. French student Ruben Journo speaks with other students about his experience and feelings after the attacks in Paris.[/caption]

In the aftermath of last January’s attack against the Charlie Hebdo newspaper offices and several places in the Île-de-France region, people tried to leave France. In response to the recent attack, people are trying to leave again, and many make attempts after high school. Journo says it is very difficult to enter the United States because of visa requirements though Israel is much easier to enter, especially for Jews.

Arié Barkats, also a freshman, spoke next. According to Barkats, the attacks in Paris struck Parisians much more than it affected France’s other citizens. Although both Arié and Ruben are from Marseille, in the south of France, they said that “It makes you very afraid for everyone you know there because you’ve been there, you know the people and it could’ve been you.” His family is still in Marseille and they are very afraid. He thanks G-d that the attacks occurred on Friday night as most Jews were not outside due to Shabbat, although it doesn’t necessarily alleviate the pain felt for the others who lost their lives. Many of the previous acts of terrorism targeted Jews, explains Barkats, but it is getting worse and worse and all of France is now afraid. For him, it is very nice to see Americans getting involved, caring about others’ suffering, and lending support to the frightened French community.

The final speaker was Alex Wascher, an international student hailing from Vienna, Austria. Wascher feels that the refugee crisis is related to these acts of terror and calls people out, saying, “we must realize that not every refugee is ISIS!” Wascher continues that if terrorist attacks on scales such as these happen more often, “we must take it as a global problem, a political problem. These attacks are not necessarily anti-Semitic, like part of the Charlie Hebdo attack in January. Seeing the solidarity the world expressed in response to the events in Paris strengthens those in Europe and reassures them. If people demonstrate that they care, it shows that we can make a change in the world”.

As a solution to the terror in France, Journo cited the idea of Marine Le Pen, an extreme right-wing politician running for election, who wants to remove the concept of dual citizenship and deport foreigners who commit crimes. Before these attacks, some people thought she was too right wing, but now, more people are supporting her. Journo believes that she will win the next election no matter what, while Barkats believes differently. Barkats explained, “If the election was tomorrow, she would get in but the election is in two years. If it gets better [people] will forget her but if something happens then she will get in.”

To close the event, Josh Nagel led a recitation of a chapter of Psalms as a prayer for the safety and good health of those injured and of all those threatened across the globe.