Raphael and Gabriel are both students, both 23 and both French Jews – like many of the victims of last week’s attacks in Paris.
The two men shared their thoughts in a conversation I tweeted from a cafe on Place de la Republique, after Sunday’s historic rally.
Neither wished to be identified – Gabriel out of personal safety concerns and Raphael for reasons of privacy.
Question: What did you do on Sunday?
Raphael: I spent the whole day at the march and rally, from 15:00 to 18:00.
Gabriel: I also spent the day at the rally, with family, neighbours and friends.
Q: What is your lasting impression of the demonstration in Paris?
Gabriel: Probably the feeling of unity, peace and respect from everyone.
Raphael: I am really proud of the face French people showed the world.
Q: Do you think French people could have responded any better to the horrible events of last week?
Raphael: It couldn’t have been better! Today was an emotional one for me but in a good way. It eased the pain, I think.
Gabriel: I felt good because it was not about politics, it was about sending a message and everyone and anyone was there.
Q: What for you is the best thing about France?
Raphael: The diversity and the culture.
Gabriel: Our values. Liberty, equality and fraternity is written on the wall of every school here.
Q: Do you feel safe being French Jews?
Gabriel: That depends. We are protected by the institutions and we are given greater protection than other religions. So for example, there are cops in front of synagogues at all times. Hate crimes against Jews are rising and are disproportionate to the size of the community.
Name-callingQ: Would you feel comfortable about wearing the skullcap inParis?
Gabriel: Not everywhere. You could get assaulted or insulted.
Raphael: They could call you names, like “dirty Jew”, or threaten you.
Gabriel: But it’s not everywhere in Paris. It happens but it’s not in every neighbourhood.
Raphael: It’s important to say that there are low-income neighbourhoods in Paris where Jews are safe.
Q: Do you think Friday’s deadly attack on French Jews got enough media attention?
Raphael: Yes, they spoke a lot about it. President Hollande made clear in his speech on Friday that it was a hate crime against Jews.
Gabriel: I agree with that. There are placards everywhere which say “I am a Jew”.
Q: Last year there was record migration of French Jews to Israel. Can you ever see yourself joining them?
Gabriel: Only if France loses the values we talked about earlier.
Raphael: I will never go to Israel other than as a tourist. I don’t feel linked in any way to the state of Israel. I strongly disapprove of the Israeli government’s policy towards the Palestinians. If I have to emigrate it will not be to Israel.
Q: Have the attacks of this week changed your attitude towards your Muslim countrymen?
Raphael: Not at all. The images of the Muslim cop being gunned down were heartbreaking and the attitude a lot of Muslims took is one reason I am so proud of my country. If anything has changed, it is change for the better.
Gabriel: I don’t feel the attackers were Muslim at all so what they did can’t change what I feel about Muslims.
Raphael: Just two concerns. I fear these attacks may help Marine Le Pen and I don’t want a French Patriot Act.