PARIS - “France will destroy this army of fanatics,’’ said French President Francois Hollande on Friday, speaking at the state memorial service for the 130 victims of November 13 attacks.
Hollande vowed that his county will not give in, neither to fear nor to hatred, and will continue to defend democracy and the republican values. He also called on the young generation not to abandon the French way of life.
“We will multiply the number of concerts, of shows. We will continue to go to the football stadium. What are the terrorists looking for? To divide us? They will fail. They have the cult of death. We cherish life.’’ Some two thousand people, most of them families of the victims and those injured at the attacks, attended the ceremony at the Court of Honor of les Invalides, where Napoleon is buried. Leaders across the political spectrum, including former presidents and representatives of the different religious communities, were also present. French-Israeli singer Yael Naim, together with two other singers, sang “Quand On N’a Que L’amour’’ (when all we have is love) by the chansonnier Jacques Brel; a song chosen to reflect the president’s wish of avoiding any nationalistic, political or religious connotations.
Many schools dedicated this hour to discuss the November 13 events.
On Wednesday, Hollande invited French citizens to display the tricolor flag in their windows while the ceremony took place. “Not everyone can come to les Invalides,’’ said government spokeswoman Stephane Le Foll, “but we tried to find a way to let every French person be part of Friday’s tribute.’’ Indeed, many French citizens responded to this call.
The French flag adorned not only houses and apartments, but also coffee shops, buses, cars, stores and banks. Some people created their own tricolor flags. Others queued at official flag shops, tourist stands and football association stores to buy a personal flag.
“We all feel very close to the victims and their families.
This is our way to demonstrate solidarity,’’ says Jeanne, working at the Popincourt market in the 11th arrondissement of Paris. “These attacks took place just a few streets away.
We need to hang up the flag and show that we are sharing this sorrow, that we are not afraid.’’ This patriotic gesture may seem evident to Israelis, but in France such a call by the president is unusual. Ever since World War II, France has made a point of discouraging the use of national symbols by individuals, as a way of discouraging nationalistic tendencies.
The French anthem, for instance, is not taught at schools and French schools rarely conduct ceremonies.
The French tricolor is displayed on public buildings, schools and street lamps, but never on private homes.
Two weeks after the November 13 attack, life in the French capital has not yet returned to its usual course. Many schools have canceled sport events and day trips. Some of them offer special psychological support to students affected by the events. Few people have started their Christmas shopping, and the department stores admit that the number of shoppers is still very low for this time of the year.
French residents and tourists continue to pay tribute, to lay flowers, to light candles and to pray at Place de la République, near the Bataclan concert hall and on Rue de Charonne, next to the La Belle Equipe Café.
As opposed to some reactions following the January attacks on Charlie Hebdo
and Hyper Cacher, there have been no graffiti, verbal or other form of insults directed at French Muslims since the recent attacks.
Political leaders have respected the national grieving period and have not yet resumed their campaigns for the regional elections, scheduled for December 6.