The Jan. 11 solidarity event in Paris was, for this viewer, a day full of anomalies and disappointments.
First, there was the march of world leaders itself. There in the front row was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with, to his left, the president of Mali, French President François Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the head of the European Union, Palestinian Authority President (seemingly for life) Mahmoud Abbas and, next to him, the king of Jordan.
One wonders how Abbas got there and why? Is he really among the ranks of world leaders? Or is this sponsor of terrorism and former Holocaust denier now ready to admit that perhaps terror is not the answer to gaining independence for his people? And, if that is the case, why not step out of line at the end of the march, go over to the Israeli prime minister and say: “Perhaps it’s time to find another way.”
Then in the early evening, Hollande, Netanyahu, along with high-ranking clergy from the Catholic and Muslim communities, gathered at the Grand Synagogue of Paris for a memorial service for those killed in the previous week. While the idea was nice, the execution of the event was, to say the least, embarrassing. The venue was badly organized, decorum (given the level of people in the room) was abysmal, the program was too long, and too many people rambled on and on.
There you had Hollande and Netanyahu in the front row sitting next to each other, with Ministers Bennett and Lieberman in the row behind and Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky in the third row with an array of French political and religious leadership scattered throughout the sanctuary. Poor planning of the program put Netanyahu on the podium at the end of the event, well after Hollande and many others had left, even though it was important that they hear his message.
The “service” should have lasted just one hour; both the president of France and the Israeli prime minister should have spoken early in the program. Instead, the organizers developed a program in a venue more akin to the shtieblach of Eastern Europe, in spite of the grandiose nature of the building. Yet another missed opportunity for the good and welfare of the French Jewish community.
What was most disturbing was that the events at the Grand Synagogue were not carried by any of the Israeli television networks. One had to turn to CNN, Fox News or Al Jazeera, all of which carried it live.
Interestingly, it was Al Jazeera that was able to provide a simultaneous English translation of Netanyahu’s Hebrew speech.
A day of anomalies to be sure and of missed opportunities all around. We mourn with the families of all of the victims of last week’s atrocities in France and hope that the world will have learned something from the experience. But we are also saddened by the missed opportunities on a Sunday in Paris.