Early this year, after the Charlie Hebdo/Jewish supermarket attacks in Paris, France, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu travelled to Paris. He spoke to a huge crowd in Paris’ historic Grand Synagogue (Emily Greenhouse, “Netanyahu does not speak for all American Jews”, Bloomberg News, January 13, 2015). He said the Jews of France had the privilege—not always available to Jews—of joining their brothers and sisters in their historic homeland of Israel: he invited France’s Jews to emigrate (make aliyah) to Israel (ibid).
Jews in France have a problem. They aren’t safe. For example, to protect Jewish schools and other “sensitive” locations, France has had to mobilize 10,000 soldiers and 4,700 police officers (ibid).
A growing number of Jews in France are afraid to walk in public with anything that identifies their Jewishness. In 2013, 40 per cent of French Jews had this fear (“1 in 4 European Jews afraid to wear kippah, Jewish symbols in public, survey shows”, Jerusalem Post, October 16, 2013). By 2015, it was worse. This past February, journalist Zvika Klein walked through different parts of Paris (with a bodyguard and a cameraman with a hidden camera) wearing tzitzit and a kippa (“10 hours of fear and loathing in Paris”, nrg, February 15, 2015). He wrote of that experience: “Welcome to Paris 2015, where soldiers are walking every street that houses a Jewish institution, and where keffiyeh-wearing men and veiled women speak Arabic on every street corner. Walking down one Parisian suburb, I was asked what I doing there. In modern-day Paris, you see, Jews are barred from entering certain areas” (ibid). At times, he felt as if he were walking in Ramallah (ibid).
Stephen Pollard wrote of Paris in January, 2015, “when it comes to home-grown anti-Semitism, France leads the world (“Antisemitism in France: the exodus has begun”, The Telegraph, January 9, 2015). He referenced a 2014 survey that stated that in 2013, France had more violent anti-Semitic incidents than any other country in the world (ibid).
At least 6 per cent of Europe’s population is Muslim (Simon Rogers, “Muslim populations by country: how big will each Muslim population be by 2030?”, The Guardian, January 28, 2011). In France, the number is at least 7.5 per cent (ibid).
By contrast, France’s Jews represent less than 1 per cent of France’s population. Not coincidentally, almost all anti-Jewish attacks in France are committed by Muslims (Pollard, The Telegraph, above).
So how did the French Jews attending Netanyahu’s Paris speech react to his invitation to move to Israel? They rose to sing the French national anthem, as if to demonstrate they preferred France to Israel (Greenhouse, Bloomberg News, above).
Shortly after his Paris visit, Netanyahu announced his plan to speak before the US Congress about the threat posed by Iran. He defended this speech by saying he was representing ‘the entire Jewish people’ (Rebecca Vilkomerson, “Netanyahu does not speak for all American Jews”, Religious News Service, February 20, 2015). American Jews quickly pronounced how appalled they were that someone they didn’t elect—or in any way chose—should dare to claim he spoke for them (ibid).
US Senator Dianne Feinstein blasted Netanyahu. “He doesn’t speak for me on this,” she said (David Harris-Gershon, “Senator Feinstein on “arrogant” Netanyahu’s claim to represent all Jews: “He doesn’t speak for me.””, Tikkun Daily, March 1st, 2015).
At least one essayist called Netanyahu’s claim ‘preposterous and dangerous’ (ibid). Many agreed: Netanyahu was not the voice of world Jewry—and he was arrogant to say he was (ibid).
Now, a story appears from America about US Vice President Joe Biden (Corey Robin, “Joe Biden’s Israel stunner: American Jews should let Israel protect them”, Salon, March 29, 2015). This story suggests that French and American Jews who turn up their collective noses at Netanyahu might want to rethink their rejection.
This story is about an incident that took place in September, 2014, when Biden spoke at his residence about Rosh Hashanna. This incident was first reported by Jeffrey Goldberg in Atlantic. Biden told a story about former Israel Prime Minister Golda Meir. Meir had told him that Israel had a secret weapon in its fight to survive. That secret weapon, she had said, was, ‘we have no place else to go’.
After telling this story, Biden dropped his stunner. Speaking about America’s Jews, he said, “there is no place else to go, and you understand that in your bones. You understand in your bones that no matter how hospitable, no matter how consequential, no matter how engaged, no matter how deeply involved you are in the United States … there’s only one guarantee. There is really only one absolute guarantee [for your safety], and that’s the state of Israel.”
Biden seemed to be saying that America’s Jews would be wise to look to a foreign government for their safety, not America (ibid). As Robin (above) wrote, a country that once offered itself as a haven to persecuted Jews across the world was now telling its Jews that “in the event of some terrible outbreak of anti-Semitism [in America] they should… what? Plan on boarding the next plane to Tel Aviv?” (ibid).
That seems to be exactly what Biden was saying.
Jews of America, come home. Jews of France, return to your homeland. The Protective essence of G-d’s Presence (the Sh’china) removes itself from the lands of exile. You are no longer safe.
The Divine Protective Essence (the Sh’china) contracts. In preparation for the Redemption, it concentrates on the homeland.
Jews who turn up their noses at a supposedly arrogant Netanyahu might do well to look in the mirror. Netanyahu is correct to speak as he does. Just ask Joe Biden.