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“Celebrating an Exodus with Repentance in Paris, Lille and Saintonge”

Ever since high school, the first few days of April spark a sense of happiness and well-being. It was then that my first real boyfriend asked to go “steady.” (Remember when we were young, romantic and unjaded?) It’s also the beginning of Spring and the celebration of Passover for the Jews and Easter for the Christians.

Tonight is the first night of the eight days of Passover, a Jewish holiday beginning on the 15th day of “Nisan,” the seventh month in the Jewish calendar. It took place just before the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Christ and the two holidays have been intertwined from that point forward. It is more historical than religious as it commemorates the Exodus from slavery in Egypt — estimated to consist of about 3 million men, women and children during the time of Moses and the Pharaohs — between 1000 and 1500 years Before the Christian Era (BCE). (There is much speculation over the actual dates.)

And just before the Jews stop recalling the 40 years they wandered through the desert by eating “Matzoh” instead of “leavened” bread, the Christians will be celebrating Easter Sunday, April 8th. The Council of Nicaea in 325 established that Easter is calculated as the first Sunday after the paschal full “ecclesiastical moon” that occurs on or after the vernal equinox (a fixed date of March 21), the ending 46 day-period of Lent which begins with Ash Wednesday (hence the celebration of Mardi Gras, the day just before!). This is a time period set aside for Christians to recognize and feel sorrow for their sins.

Of course, at this point, I could easily make all sorts of comments and jokes about the juxtaposition of an exodus vs a repentance, but I’ll leave that to your own imagination and judgment. Meanwhile, there lies a bigger conflict.

In all the years I’ve lived in France, I have not experienced any direct anti-semitic sentiment. Perhaps that’s because I live in the heart of the American community, the heart of the Jewish community in Le Marais, and within the heart of an intellectual community which knows no color, no gender, and no religious discrimination. Outwardly, France makes a big effort to promote anti-discrimination through public advertising, special events, commemorative places and plaques, and in a myriad of ways, way more than any other country I can think of. France, from my perspective (insulated or not), seriously doesn’t want the world to think their heads are in the sand or that they have forgotten its embarrassing history…and I have defended this position for all these years.

Today I have disturbing news that conflicts with a need to expose the truth and a fear that it will be misinterpreted.

Last week, j2999ie Levy Martin, author of “Never Tell Your Name,” (the true story of a child who must hide in an austere French convent-school during World War II when her German Jewish parents can no longer keep her, a place where she learned never to tell her name) came to France to speak about her book and her

perience at several venues. Friday night, after speaking at a bookstore and gallery of François Julien-Labruyere, her editor, in the Poitou-Charentes town of Saintes, the windows displaying photos of j2999ie and the book cover were sprayed with either animal blood or red paint.

Saintes was in antiquity the capital of a Celtic tribe, the Santoni, and later chief town of the French province of Saintonge (the name of my own street!), and was the birthplace of Dr J.I. Guillotin (1738- 1814), inventor of the guillotine! j2999ie wrote, “You must know that this was absolutely NOT done by Arabs…there aren’t any in Saintes, a lovely old town with three major cathedrals, and remotely located in the Charentes. Nor was there any tagging elsewhere in the neighborhood. This was highly site-specific!” She went on to remark, “I actually wept thinking of how my parents must have lived through years of this kind of animosity all around them and I thanked G-d [God] or Lord Random that the return of rabid world-wide anti-semitism came well after their deaths.

The store manager was so upset, that she didn’t take a photo, nor report it to the police. She just wiped it off as quickly as possible. j2999ie’s sentiment, “This sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen in a place like Saintes…Lyon, Marseille, Paris, yes…but Saintes, that lovely town with three famous Cathedrals, where I was interviewed by Courrier de l’Ouest, the big local newspaper AND after a terrific article!…this wasn’t supposed to happen.”

Then, this morning I received a call from author, poet and professor, Kathleen Spivak, to alert me to what happened just a few hours ago. More than 50 Jewish tombs were damaged overnight in a cemetery in the northern French city of Lille. French President Jacques Chirac has already condemned the attack: “Following this unspeakable and intolerable act, which I condemn in the most solemn manner, I want to express to you, as well as to the families, my very deep sympathy and my full solidarity with the whole of the Jewish community of Lille and of our country,” Mr. Chirac said.

Here’s where I hope we can temper our reactions and create a more positive result. Yes, we can be angry, frustrated and tempted to take revenge. We can’t blame France, because France isn’t the culprit. What we CAN blame is IGNORANCE. I agree with j2999ie Levy Martin’s own words, a person who lived through the war years in France under tremendous adversity: “If anything, it has strengthened my determination to come back to Paris to participate in educational programs. Perhaps my book will be adapted for a younger reader…qui sait?”

I encourage you to voice your own point of view, to which you are entitled, as I am mine…so please click here… to comment on the Parler Paris Reader Forum now! And j2999ie’s book, “Never Tell Your Name,” is available for purchase by clicking on the Parler Paris book section titled “Books Set in Paris and France by American Authors”…click here: /parlerparis/books/byamericanauthors.html

A la prochaine…

Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris

Express Yourself. Click here to comment on Parler Paris…

P.S. Watch Parler Paris for announcements about our upcoming Living and Investing in France Conference July 7 and 8 in San Francisco, co-sponsored by the Alliance Française of San Francisco! Visit /frenchproperty/conference/ or email Schuyler Hoffman at [email protected]

P.P.S. Ask about our lowest rates on last-minute rentals in April and May on Le Provençal, Attic Lumière, Panthéon, Burgundy and more! Scroll down or visit /parlerparis/apartments for more information.


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