Once again a saddening debate about religious signs is happening in my beloved homeland. It is traditionally understood that religion belongs to the private sphere, and you do not encounter common expressions like “God Bless” or “God speed” in the French language, at least not with an intentional meaning as it would commonly have in the US.
The Media is Creating the News
Another terrorist attack on a teacher donning a Jewish skullcap, the kippah, occurred this week in Marseilles, third city in the South of France, and is now sparking a fiery debate as the chief of the local “consistoire” (a Jewish Counsel Organization that has a lot of authority in France among religious Jews) has recommended the Jews NOT to wear a kippah in the public space “until things calm down”, which we all know is akin to saying “until the sun stops shining on the earth” because we are talking of one incident among the hundreds that are happening all the time when Jews are concerned everywhere in the world and in Israel every day. This particular incident got a lot of media attention because of the recent terror attacks in France and as always the need from the media to distance themselves from the responsibilities they bear in “making events” or burying them.
By insisting on the necessity to hide your own beliefs or your customs under the pretext that they would be provocative of any kind of violence done to you, you are accusing the victims (here, in this case, a victim of antisemitism, but the same happens with victims of sexual violence or of racism in the case of young black men walking in the street in the USA – and how would they hide that they have a different skin tone in the public space?) of being the guilty party for the violence that is done to them.
I remember when I decided to affix a mezuzah (the decorative box containing a small scroll with excerpts of scripture from the Hebrew bible, the Torah called the “shema“) to my doorpost in my apartment in Paris, my father had been agreeing to my so doing, if I was putting it INSIDE the apartment but not outside. Out of respect for my father (which has to take precedence in honoring him, rather than doing the other commandment of affixing the mezuzah to the doorpost), I had done so. Only when I came to live to the USA was I able to proudly adorn my outside doorpost with a mezuzah (and have other doors inside with same, too!).
Living in a World of Fear or in a World of Love
In doing so, I do not see how I could incite to violence unless people are antisemitic and hate the Jews for just being Jews.
We live in a world of growing fear, not because the world is more violent than it used to be in the dark ages. We live in a world of fear because we choose to shine lights on the darkest and meanest parts of what the world is experiencing and not shining a light on educating, teaching and loving.
A Jew who is wearing a kippah is a person who chooses to adhere to a certain code of conduct, that is, first of all, respectful of all the others, and that is a non-violent way of affirming beliefs for oneself and not pushing them onto others.
Everyone in France should support their Jewish neighbors by wearing a kippah in the public space, in a way to affirm that they understand their plight and they respect them. They are very decorative and elegant little hats anyways and the pope dons one all the time. You do not need to believe in any kind of God or particular religion to understand that we should all do to others what we would like to be done to us.