PARIS – For three hours, undeterred by the rain and cold, Jews and non-Jews, residents of Paris and its outskirts, flowed to the tent that was erected near the site of the 2015 Hyper Cacher hostage attack in the 20th arrondissement of Paris on Monday night. The gathering marked two years since the murder of Yoav Hattab, Phillipe Braham, Yohan Cohen and François-Michel Saada by Amedy Coulibaly during a siege at the kosher grocery shortly after the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack.
The French Jewish community commemorated the attack with a solidarity meeting where attendees shared how the attack had affected them and French Jewry. They lit candles, prayed, stood in silence and wrote messages in books dedicated to the memory of the four men, all of whom are buried in Jerusalem.
Former prime minister Manuel Valls, right-wing presidential candidate François Fillon and Minister of the Interior Bruno Le Roux also paid their respects.
But it was the attendance of two others at the event that aroused the strongest emotional reaction: Lassana Bathily, the Malian migrant Muslim store worker who saved several hostages, and Latifa Ibn Ziaten, the mother of a French soldier who was killed in a terrorist attack in 2012 in southern France.
Talking to The Jerusalem Post
, Ibn Ziaten said that “we have all lost our loved ones and we share the same pain, so we must learn to live together, to get to know each other and not to be afraid from each other. We must live in peace.”
An elderly woman living nearby shared her emotions: “I pass this intersection every day. I still come to the Hyper Cacher supermarket to buy groceries, and it is difficult to realize that this quiet place was the site of such murderous and barbaric acts.
“For us who have lived here many years, we do not need a special ceremony to remember. We will never forget the four men who were murdered here just for being Jewish and just for being French,” she added.
The Monday night gathering was the last in a string of events commemorating the January 2015 Paris region attacks, including the Charlie Hebdo attack, the Dammartin- en-Goele hostage crisis, the Hyper Cacher attack and the murder of policewoman Clarisa Jean-Philippe. Altogether, 17 people were killed in these attacks and 22 injured.
Ceremonies organized by the Paris Municipality were somber and intimate. There was little publicity for the events on Thursday and Sunday, allowing mourners a modicum of privacy.
During the first municipal ceremony on Thursday, the cortege led by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo proceeded from one memorial site to another without any speeches; wreaths were placed and a minute of silence at each site was observed.
The procession was a painful chronological tour of the sites that began in the 11th arrondissement where the Charlie Hebdo offices were located, continued to the nearby street where the policewoman was killed, and ended in the 20th arrondissement at the outskirts of the French capital, where the Hyper Casher is located.
The second, more public ceremony on Sunday was attended by several French public figures, leaders of the French Jewish community and representatives of the Israeli embassy.
Also in attendance was Bituach Leumi director-general Prof. Shlomo Mor Yosef, who was in Paris for an international conference on the treatment of terror victims.
“The French government made it a point of having this international conference on terror victims today of all days,’’ he told the Post. “The January attacks have changed the French approach to the issue, and they are focusing a lot of efforts on accompanying victims and family members. In that respect, they are closely following our work in Israel and are using us as an example.”