Amid protests, Jerusalem Square to be inaugurated in Paris

The inauguration of the square in the central 17th Arrondissement is scheduled for Sunday.

June 28, 2019 09:27
3 minute read.
Street sign in Paris honoring brothers Arye and Gabriel Sandler

Street sign in Paris honoring brothers Arye and Gabriel Sandler. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Protests and controversies are threatening to disrupt the inauguration of Jerusalem Square in Paris, the French newspaper Le Monde reported on Thursday.

The inauguration of the square, which will stand at the intersection of Rue de Courcelles and Boulevard of Reims, in the central 17th Arrondissement, is scheduled for Sunday, June 30.

The square is the site of the future European Center of Judaism (ECJ), which is currently under construction. It is located only a few meters away from the Sainte Odile Square, where, in May, two alleys were named after the three children killed in the 2012 Toulouse terror attack: The 8-year-old Myriam Monsonego, and brothers Arie and Gabriel Sandler, aged 6 and 3, who are buried in Jerusalem.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo officially committed to pursuing the project in a letter to the President of the Central Consistory of France, Joel Mergui, on May 15. The Consistory is the body that represents French Jewry in matters of religion.

“In this sad period of recrudesce of racist and antisemitic acts, recalling the ties that unite the city of Paris and the Jewish community is essential,” Hidalgo wrote.

“For this reason, your proposal of devoting a square to Jerusalem in the capital seems very sensible, also in order to remember the friendship and the unity between the city of Paris and the state of Israel,” she added.

When the Municipal Council approved the project on June 12, only Danielle Simonnet from the far-left party La France Insoumise voted against, after proposing an amendment that required the street sign to read “Jerusalem Square - With the wish that it becomes the future capital of two States.” The amendment was rejected.

However, soon after the approval, controversies started to surface, according to Le Monde.

The representatives of the Green and the Communist parties, who sit in the city’s governing coalition and abstained during the vote, started to protest after learning that Mergui had advanced the proposal of devoting a square to Jerusalem on the occasion of the visit of Israeli president Reuven Rivlin last January.

“Barely two days after the council meeting, we discovered from a tweet by Joel Mergui, president of the Central Consistory of France, that in fact, this dedication follows a direct request he made to Anne Hidalgo during Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s visit to the City Hall,” the two parties wrote in a statement. They added that they were also surprised that the mayor of Jerusalem “known for his stance and his actions in favor of colonization” had been invited to the inauguration of the square.

“We are shocked that none of the representatives of the three religious communities of Jerusalem are invited, and even more because of the absence of a representative of the Palestinian Authority,” the statement continued.

“All of these facts together, seem to legitimize a confiscation of Jerusalem by the state of Israel while we could have made it a symbol of peace between peoples and different communities.

For all these reasons, we ask Mrs. Hidalgo to renounce this inauguration,” it concluded.

The Jerusalem Square in the 17th Arrondissement will not mark the first time the name of the holy city will appear in Paris’ toponymy.

A Rue Jerusalem, a short alley where pilgrims coming back from the Holy Land were historically lodged, existed for at least 150 years until 1871, when the historic Palace of Justice in the heart of Paris was largely destroyed by a fire.

For centuries a residence of the French monarchs, in the 19th century the Palace was the headquarters of France’s judicial system. The restorations lasted over 20 years. When completed, the site of the Palace had also incorporated some of the surrounding streets, including Rue Jerusalem.

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