Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Terror victim's father : 'I am an Arab'

 A Jew in Tunis needs to tread on eggshells, and Rabbi Benjamin Hattab, in London to collect funds for a school in memory of  his  son Yoav - killed in the Hyper Casher attack in Paris -  is nothing if not a diplomat.  But did he really need to say, 'I am an Arab'? Report in Jewish News (with thanks: Michelle):

In London to honour his son at a communal dinner hosted by the Centre for Jewish Life, Rabbi Hattab is speaking to the British media for the first time since the Paris attacks.
Having appeared already on French and Tunisian television, Hattab has been a powerful ambassador for reconciliation and interfaith dialogue.

But when it comes to the spectre of rising European anti-Semitism, what we believe and what we want to believe can be two very different things.
Did his son feel safe in Paris? “Yes, he felt at ease in France. He never feared that something like [the attack] could happen.”

No provocations at all? No warning signs? “The truth is that when he first arrived [in France] he told me: ‘Dad, there’s ‘death to the Jews’ written on walls.’ Then he said: ‘Dad, when I walk in the street wearing my kippah, Arabs sometimes hit me.’ Then, he paid for his Judaism with his life.”

Yoav with his proud father
Yoav with his parents

In 2014, some 7,000 of France’s 600,000 Jews made aliyah. That’s twice as many as the previous year. Hattab sympathises with their motives, saying: “I feel safer in Tunisia than I do in France, more than I do in England.”

The tragic irony of this latest attack on Paris’ Jews is not lost on him. Having left an Islamic country for the land of liberté, egalité and fraternité, his son met his end at the hands of a French-born Islamist.

For Hattab, it is the cultural and religious exclusion felt by Arabs living in the West that is chiefly to blame for the fractious ideological landscape that serves as fertile ground for home-grown jihadists. Radicalised Arabs aren’t ‘chez eux’, at home in the West, whereas, he says, in Tunisia “we live together, we have a shared history. There are no problems between Jews and Arabs. I myself am an Arab”.

There are an estimated 2,000 Jews living in Tunisia today – that’s just two percent of the 100,000 strong community at the outbreak of the Second World War.

As Chief Rabbi of a diminished Jewish population in an overwhelmingly Muslim country, Hattab is as skilled a diplomat as he is a scholar. His measured delivery and broken voice betray a still-raw grief. Yet his message for the Tunisian government that “protects our synagogue, our school” is one of gratitude.

Read article in full

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He is as much an 'Arab Jew', as the European Jews are 'European Jews'.

I know what he is trying to say, and sadly he is wrong. Better to remember your own identity, however unpopular it may be, because even if you choose to 'forget' it, then there will always be those that will be happy to remind you that you are Jewish first and foremost.