Sunday, March 26, 2006

Does This Get You Excited?

During a coffee break early in the conference, Stuart Altshuler, a rabbi from Mission Viejo, Calif., got into an angry dispute with Mr. Falouji, the imam from Gaza, over the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

But the two made up shortly after, saying they had benefited from the exchange. “I was able to meet with Falouji from Gaza,” Rabbi Altshuler said the next day. “I’ve dreamed of a chance to do that.”

Did that get you excited?

The meeting, organized by the French foundation Hommes de Parole, which promotes dialogue between conflicting groups, included hostile exchanges and pointed arguments about terrorism, Israeli settlements and claims to Jerusalem. But it also led to some uninhibited displays of camaraderie, like rabbis and imams singing and dancing together during an impromptu musical performance in the hotel lobby near midnight.

Did that get you excited?

Full story here.

But for a parallel story, one that should cause the French group to stay in France and not get involved with the Middle East, read on here:-

In working-class Parisian suburbs like this one, heavily populated by North African immigrants, the word "Jew" is now a standard epithet. It appears in graffiti on middle school walls and neighborhood playgrounds and on the tongues of the young.

"It's blacks and Arabs on one side and Jews on the other," said Sebastian Daranal, a young black man standing in the parking lot of a government-subsidized housing project with two friends.

Eight men beat the son of a rabbi here in March. Another Jew was attacked the next day.

In the wake of the torture and killing in February of Ilan Halimi, a 23-year-old Jew, attention has focused on an undeniable problem: anti-Semitism among France's second-generation immigrant youth, whose high jobless rate the government is trying to address with a law drawing widespread protests across the country.

The law, intended to increase employment, especially among the young, has drawn opposition because of a provision that allows companies to hire people 25 or younger for a two-year trial period, during which they can be fired without cause.

Schools are the battleground over anti-Semitism, and teachers complain that the government has done little, despite many proposals.

"The minister of education has done nothing," said Jean-Pierre Obin, an inspector general of education in France, who wrote a report in 2004 that called anti-Semitism "ubiquitous" in the 61 schools surveyed. "He prefers not to talk about it."

Mr. Obin wrote in the report of "a stupefying and cruel reality: in France, Jewish children — and they are alone in this case — can no longer be educated in just any school."

Ianis Roder, 34, a history teacher in a middle school northeast of Paris, said he was stunned by what he witnessed after Sept. 11, 2001. The next day, someone spray-painted in a stairwell of the school the image of an airplane crashing into the World Trade Center beside the words "Death to the U.S., Death to Jews."

When he told his class months later that Hitler had killed millions of million Jews, one boy blurted out, "He would have made a good Muslim!" Mr. Roder told of a Muslim teacher who dismissed her class after a shouting match over Nazi propaganda. The students said the offensive images accurately depicted Jews.

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