Paris Victim Said: Israel is the Only Place to Freely be a Jew

January 11, 2015  

Yoav Hattab, 21, was an ardent Zionist who traveled to Israel for the first  time last month, a friend recalled at a gathering of French immigrants in Tel Aviv Saturday night.

“We met on a trip to Israel two weeks ago,” said Leah Elyakim. “It was his first time here. He was from Tunisia, and until recently it wasn’t possible to enter with a passport from there,” she explained. 

“He learned Hebrew, he knew everything about Israeli history, more than any of us. Every day we traveled, he walked around with an Israeli flag on his back. He said that Israel was the only place he could walk freely with a Star of David or Israeli flag. In France, he never could have.” 

According to Elyakim, Hattab was an ardent Zionist. “His dream was to move to Israel and serve in the army,” she said, adding that he had been “so depressed when he had to return to France. He told me, ‘when I get to Paris, I’ll have to hide the flag.'”

Hava Maimon, a close friend of Valeria Barham, the wife of victim Phillipe Barham, 40, said: “She lost her son three years ago to illness. Now Phillipe was killed. She does not how she’ll get over this. We talked about it today. She was crying; she does not know what to do next, how to get past it, let alone with three children.” 

Maimon added that Barham had had a premonition of disaster on Friday afternoon, when Phillipe never called her back. “She called us and said, ‘I feel it.’ She was very worried.” 

Elyakim and Maimon were among the dozens who gathered at the Mazeh Youth Center in Tel Aviv Saturday night to mourn the four individuals killed Friday in the Jewish supermarket Hypercasher in Paris, and to tell their stories. 

Most of the attendees were French immigrants to Israel. A representative for the French community in Tel Aviv and a representative of the French Embassy in Israel were also present, as well as other public figures – among them Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs, MK Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, and the head rabbi of the community of French nationals now living in Tel Aviv, Rabbi Eytan Sitbon. 

Participants lit memorial candles and recited a prayer for the victims, whom some of the mourners knew personally. 

Tel Aviv preparing to absorb thousands of Jews

Eitan Schwartz, the foreign affairs advisor for Tel Aviv’s mayor, said during the ceremony: “This attack does not represent French society but rather a radical portion that must be eradicated. Just as the mayors of Paris and Toulouse knew to call us when we were hurt, we are showing our solidarity with them today.”

“Tel Aviv bows her head sharing the deep regret of the Jewish community in France. The city is prepared for the absorption of thousands of immigrants in the coming year,” he continued.   

Many recent French emigres expressed their sadness over recent events, and their frustration with, but hope for, France. 

What happened yesterday is exactly what happened in Toulouse two years ago,” one immigrant told Walla! News. “This incident is very similar – both police officers and Jews were killed. I was so nervous, everyone’s mood dropped. We don’t understand how the French Prime Minister hasn’t learned the lessons from two years ago – why hasn’t he learned from Israel how to deal with terrorist attacks?” 

Another immigrant, who has been living in Israel for a year and a half, said: “We can feel that the situation there is very difficult and scary, but the problem is that not everyone can immigrate to Israel, there are people who have their work there. What is happening in France is not just a problem for Jews, but everyone’s problem. I pray that more people will be able to come.”

During the ceremony Rabbi Sitbon spoke, emphasizing the importance of unity and solidarity. 

“There are occurrences in life that are private tragedies, but what happened yesterday was not a private incident. The entire nation of Israel was hurt, and because of this we are all here and everyone must wake up and see themselves as though our brother was wounded there and build upon this pain.”

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