Of Toulouse and the Park Hotel
On March 27, Israel will mark the 10th anniversary of one of the worst terror attacks it experienced in its existence.
A Palestinian Arab suicide bomber entered the Park Hotel in Netanya, a coastal city favored by devout, elderly Jews and known to be where Holocaust survivors had gone with their families for the Seder.
It’s the location of those mere six miles that separate Netanya on the coast from Tulkarem inland.
There is an Arab saying about Netanya, alluding to it as the narrowest and most exposed throat of Israel: “When we hang you, we will hang you from Netanya”.
That holy night, the lives of 30 Jews were turned off in the single worst massacre since the Second World War. The destiny Hitler had intended for them was implemented by a Palestinian Arab.
When the terrorist entered the hotel’s dining hall, the guests were listening to Exodus 12:13–14, “But the blood will mark the houses where you are”.
The hall was devastated, windows and glass panels shattered, light fixtures ripped out, the ceiling collapsed halfway.
The ballbearings and nails packed into the bomb hit the people farther away. There was an enormous pool of blood—the blood of innocent Jews who had wanted to celebrate Passover together that night.
A copy of the Passover Haggadah and a piece of unleavened matzo bread were immersed in the blood.
Most of the victims, many ofthem elderly Holocaust survivors, were maimed beyond recognition, making it impossible to establish identity by fingerprints or birthmarks, scars or Holocaust tattoos.
Let me recall some of the victims.
Anna had been married for twenty years to Gorge Yakobovitch; both were Holocaust survivors.
Eva and Ernest Weiss “were like two lovebirds”. They had both experienced the Nazi camps.
Sarah Levy-Hoffman was a survivor of Auschwitz, where she lost her husband and a four-year-old daughter who was torn from her arms when she arrived at the camp. In Israel, she made her living with a little grocery store.
Alter and Frieda Britvich, both in their eighties, survived Auschwitz.
Clara Rosenberger had a number tattooed onto her arm fifty years earlier when she was deported to Auschwitz with her family, who were all gassed and incinerated. A strong young woman, she had been given the job of collecting the belongings of those who were sent to the gas chambers. After the war, she boarded a ship belonging to Bricha, the movement for clandestine immigration into Israel. Her only possession was a new pair of shoes, which she was wearing when she first set foot in Israel.
I thought about these Holocaust survivors when, last Monday, we woke up in Europe to the news that four Jews had been murdered in Tolouose.
France, more than any other nation, emancipated the Jews of Europe from their centuries-old status of pariahs. But the dark side of French civilization in modern times has been the scourge of anti-Semitism.
Now, this resilient demon is again stalking France, in the form of terrorist violence against Jews.
While I was reading about Toulouse, I was reminded of Michel Barnier, the French foreign minister, who spent a night in Yasser Arafat’s Ramallah compound as a sign of “unconditional support”, while the Palestinian Arab bombers continued to burn Jewish children.
I thought about the owners of the Park Hotel, the Cohen family, who lived through the Vichy regime in France.
I thought about Marianne Lehmann Zaoui, who was born in Germany and escaped extermination by fleeing to France, where she and her sister hid in a Catholic village. After the war, she taught English in a high school in France and had three children. In 1992 she moved to Israel, joining Lucien, her second husband.
Marianne’s relatives are convinced that, with her death at the Park Hotel, she saved the life of her husband, who was slightly injured, and of her nine-year-old grandson, who was unharmed, because her body absorbed the impact of the explosion.
I thought of Rav Jonathan Sandler, who tried to protect his two children with his own body.The terrorist shot at the bodies from close range to be sure that they had been killed.
I hope that Clara Rosenberger’s pair of shoes and the little body of Miriam Monsonego, wrapped in its white shroud, will forever haunt the West's frivolous conscience, the European commissioners who engage in blood thinning and my fellow journalists, imbued with cynicism, hypocrisy and anti-Semitism.
But as happened with the Park Hotel, the world will remain silent in the face of this newest killing spree of Jews in Toulouse.
Next month, Jews all over the world will celebrate being taken out of slavery. We will remember the many families have become slaves to sorrow, pain and tears.
The writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, is a columnist for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book "A New Shoah", that researched the personal stories of Israel's terror victims, published by Encounter. His writing appears frequently in publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary.