“Our generation will have to get through this night”

“Our generation will have to get through this night”

On October 7, the Hamas attack left Israeli society in mourning forever. The Jewish diaspora, too, lives in a state of shock. As the Middle East threatens to burst into flames, Rabbi Delphine Horvilleur strives to keep a glimmer of hope alive.

“Fear has awakened,” you wrote after October 7. Six months later, is the trauma still as vivid?

Yes, the pain remains very severe. The mourning of all these accumulating deaths never ceases to reverberate. Our habits are returning, but “not like before”, as France Gall sang in Obviously. I have been listening to this song all the time for six months, one of the most beautiful ever written about mourning. The night of anguish that we have just experienced with Iran's attack on Israel gives me the feeling that we have entered another time in our history. A zone of absolute unknown.

You are no longer the same. A different, “damaged” woman, you say in your book

For now, I feel more pessimistic than my deep nature. What has always guided my rabbinate was the desire to build bridges, to be engaged in conversation with others. Today, I feel the latter is sometimes impossible, because there is so much hatred around us… The thing about hatred is that it very quickly contaminates. And that it disfigures us. How do we avoid being disfigured by hatred? I ask myself this question all the time. For example, I have chosen to disconnect from social networks for the most part, because some of them are monopolized by people who have the crazy desire to lead us towards a form of civil war.

Faced with such events, we feel overcome by extremely powerful emotions. How to stay in shape?

The key lies in empathy. Try to put yourself in the other person's shoes. Repeated over and over, the word has become faded, but it is the number one key to preserving our humanity. I can no longer stand all these people who put the pain of the opposite camp into perspective, as if the other had sought it. I call this the “rhetoric of but”: “It’s terrible what you’re going through, but what about the suffering of Palestinian civilians? » As if it alone was legitimate to be told. Or as if I wasn't sensitive to it! Obviously there are many more Palestinian deaths than Israelis today! Obviously there is an urgent need to fight against famine in Gaza! I resolutely want to situate myself in a rhetoric of “and”. I believe we have a duty to think of some And for others to perceive each other's pain, each other's guilt, each other's responsibilities.

As a liberal, feminist, pro-Palestinian rabbi, you embody a figure of dialogue: does this still seem tenable to you?

Indeed, it is difficult. In recent weeks, I have set a minimum rule for myself: I can speak with everyone, as long as the other does not deny my right to exist. In other words, I will not dialogue with someone who denies the right of Jews to be in the land of Israel. Or that of the Palestinians to be there. And there are many ways to deny this right to existence.

That's to say ?

In Paris, for example, the police came to the Jewish community to ask us to remove our names from the doorbells; to remove the mezuzah at the entrance to the door; to take a nickname to reserve at the restaurant… I'm not telling this to make people cry! But in the name of what does the suffering of the Palestinian people, thousands of kilometers from here, justify that I find myself in danger, me, a French citizen? There, you see, we enter the domain of the negation of my right to exist. This makes me think of what the poet Amos Oz wrote. When his father lived in Europe, he saw writing on the walls: “Jew, get out of here, go to Palestine.” » And a few decades later, he read on these same walls: “Jew, get out of Palestine. » The Jew, wherever he is, is reproached for being there.

Deaths against deaths, suffering against suffering… This victim competition is exacerbated in our society. How to get out?

We get out of it by refusing the conditions of this pendulum. We must think with an “e”, and heal with an “a” the suffering from which it comes. Arabs or Jews, all are human. And we must ask ourselves the question: what is the interest of haters in making this hatred grow among us all?

Has anti-Semitism changed since October 7?

One thing concerns me in the way of describing the Middle Eastern conflict today: concentration camps immediately arise in the conversation, with a Nazification of the “bad guys” – the Jews – and a Judaization of the victims – the Palestinians. We can criticize the excessiveness of the Israeli response, but what other nation in the world would not have reacted to an attack like that of October 7, the equivalent of a hundred Bataclans (November 13, 2015, in Paris. “One hundred” on the scale of the population of Israel, Editor’s note) ? Placing another time in history on this conflict is obscene and unbearable. This amounts to wanting to take away part of their past from the Jews.

What does this confiscation of the past produce?

It prohibits us from feeling empathy towards the Israelis, who suffer in their flesh from this gigantic mourning which befell them on October 7. This in no way prevents me from feeling devastated by the images of war coming from Gaza. And to pray that we engage in a political solution, the only one capable of getting us out of this absolute tragedy.

As long as Benyamin Netanyahu assumes his die-hard attitude, do you believe in a political solution?

Israelis and Palestinians will have to find how to live together on this piece of land! Between, on the one hand, a messianic and nationalist far-right government, which calls for exiling the Palestinians to a neighboring country; and, on the other, those who demand a Palestine “ from the river to the sea » (from the river to the sea), in other words an ethnic cleansing of the Jews of Israel, both postures are unacceptable. Let us not forget the reason for the existence of the State of Israel: to offer refuge to a people that the nations could not, did not know, did not want to – tick the correct answer – save. We must think that Israeli policy is conducted with this history. In the same way as exile, the fear of non-return haunts the Palestinian psyche today. Everyone, both on site and from a distance, grafts their own ghosts, their own demons onto the current story.

Does it make sense to you, in today's Israeli society, to imagine reaching out to a post-Hamas government?

It is not only audible, but necessary. This would require a change in leadership on both sides. Until proven otherwise, Hamas has included in its charter the destruction of the State of Israel. And part of today's Israeli government will do everything to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state. Quietly saying in Paris, from a café, what people should do is one thing. But today, bombs fall, hostages remain held prisoner, raped women testify, Palestinian dead are everywhere. Time does not listen to others.

Since October 7, in your synagogue, have new needs emerged?

I have never had so many people at my classes. People tell me: “When we met, Judaism wasn’t that important. And all of a sudden, with our concern for our children, for Israel, it takes up considerable space. » Because the world demands accountability from them, people say to themselves: “Even if it means being Jewish, let’s be so intelligently. Let's try to understand, let's study. » My rabbinical work is increased tenfold in its sacredness. Because in the heart of this night we have entered, I feel committed even more than before to the sacred duty to speak. To fight for our joint humanity. To stand, too, alongside my loved ones. Our generation will have to get through this night.

You began your book with an address to your children, wishing them to be “lights” in the night…

My children are 11, 15 and 18 years old. And I tell myself that they will have to deal with it. Or more precisely, what they will do with… and without. The part of growing up is learning to lose. You have to learn to cry. We must learn to live without it. The world they inherit is a broken world. Evidenced by this, in Jewish tradition, is the symbol of broken glass at marriage. When we get married, we imagine that our love places us in a state of absolute completeness. And the bride and groom are reminded, when they are starting a home, that they will have to build with the broken glass. In other words, with what is forever broken, missing and fallible in the world. And that won't stop them from building anyway.

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