PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron held a memorial ceremony on Wednesday in Paris for the French Israelis killed on October 7, marking four months since the Hamas massacre.
Family members of the 42 dual citizens, together with relatives of French Israelis kidnapped by Hamas, were invited to the ceremony, which took place at the Invalides monument building in the center of Paris. The French government chartered an airplane to bring the families from Israel and hosted them in Paris. After the ceremony, the families were set to meet Macron at the Elysee Palace.
The ceremony began with French Republican Guard officers, dressed in blue and black, carrying the pictures of the 42 victims, as the French Army orchestra played kaddish by French composer Maurice Ravel. Once the soldiers with the portraits were standing at the court, Macron delivered his speech, which was the only address during the sober ceremony.
“They weren’t even 30 years old,” he said. “Avidan, Valentin, or Naomi will never reach that age. They all had their dreams. They studied law, or computer science, started a job, found love, got engaged. They had faith, or not, had a guitar, a surfboard on the waves of the Mediterranean. They were full of ideals.”
Placed under the theme of the continuous battle of France against antisemitism, Macron said October 7 was “the largest antisemitic massacre of our century,” adding that the barbarism of Hamas “was nourished by antisemitism.”
“Nothing justifies the terror acts” perpetrated on October 7, he said.
France continues to battle for the liberation of the hostages, Macron said, adding that “their chairs are still empty.”
Mother of fallen soldier: Ceremony was "extremely impressive, very moving"
Zehava Ben Simon, the mother of Lt. Adar Ben Simon, who was killed while fighting Hamas terrorists who infiltrated the Zikim army base, said: “The ceremony was extremely impressive, very moving for all of us.”
“I felt that they respected us,” she told The Jerusalem Post. “They respected the memory of our loved ones, our emotions... We appreciate enormously the engagement of President Macron and all that the French government has done for us.”
Ben Simon arrived in Paris together with her two children, Shahaf, the elder sister of Adar, and Aviv, Adar’s twin brother.
Katya Zohar, the mother of Bar Zohar, who was killed at the Supernova music festival said the families of the victims were all touched by the ceremony.
“I’m happy they did it now, four months after, and not earlier,” she told the Post. “We just could not bring ourselves to come in the days after [the massacre]. Bar was only 23 years old. She went to the Supernova music festival, where the terrorists shot her. She tried to escape in a car with friends but didn’t make it. I cannot start imagining what she went through.”
Katya expressed her gratitude to Macron for holding the ceremony, and for the French embassy in Tel Aviv, whose representatives accompanied the family from day one.
“I do not take any of that for granted,” she said. “The personal decision of Macron to hold this ceremony moves us beyond words.”
Tali Ben Chabo is the sister of Arik Peretz, who together with his daughter, Ruth-Hodaya, were murdered at the Supernova music festival. Ruth was born with brain damage, she said, and could not eat any solid food or walk. But she loved music, and her father brought her to wherever there was music to brighten her life. His loyalty and love for her knew no boundaries, she added.
“We are here to tell her story, for the world to hear about these two beautiful, peace-loving people, murdered in cold blood,” Ben Chabo told the Post. “I am so moved to be here today. The French president and the whole staff of the French consulate in Israel are very special people. They accompanied us from the moment I told them we were French citizens and that my brother was missing. At the time, we still had hope that Arik and Ruth had been kidnapped, not killed. They have stayed with us since then. The ambassador himself was in touch with us. French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna came to see us, saying she would travel to Qatar to try and help us. When we sat shiva, President Macron called us. They were there when we needed them most.”
The Israeli delegation was accompanied by OneFamily, Israel’s national organization dedicated to victims of terrorism and their families.
“I must say that France has been extremely present alongside its victims of terror attacks in Israel, setting an example others should follow.” said Orelia Biliah, head of OneFamily’s French-speaking branch
“The French government has been generous in helping victims of terror and war for as long as I can remember,” said CEO Belzberg, a native French speaker who is originally from Belgium. “I haven’t seen this kind of nobility and kindness from any other country in the world for their overseas citizens.”
Former French prime minister Manuel Valls told the Post: “The ceremony sends a message of compassion, of love to our French-Israeli compatriots, to all the victims of this atrocious attack.”
Valls served as premier when France was hit by the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, leading the government’s hardline against Islamic terrorism.
“Our thoughts are with the families of the victims and also with the hostages held in Gaza by Hamas,” he said. “And for me, it’s a moment of awareness, of recognizing the danger we are facing. We have already experienced that in France and other European countries. It is the same danger, Islamic terrorism, that hit Israel four months ago. So, this ceremony is important for getting together, for rendering homage to the victims, but also for recognizing the danger threatening all of us,” Valls said.