Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Barry Rubin: Whoever is President There: France Fries While Its Leaders Avert Eyes

by Barry Rubin

In the tiny town of Barr, France—population 6000—in Alsace near the German and Swiss borders, there is a tiny parking lot near the main street. You pull into it, take one of the dozen or so spaces, and then notice the sign, “Parking de Synagogue.”

For a moment one thinks that this is the parking lot of a synagogue. But then you see the small sign saying that in 1882 a synagogue was built on this spot and in 1985 it was torn down to make the parking lot. It isn’t the parking lot for the synagogue but the Synagogue Parking Lot, the only one in town.

The next village down the road, Bergheim, population 1500, is far tinier and even more charming, about the closest thing to a perfectly preserved Medieval place I’ve ever seen. There, too, is a sign where a synagogue once stood. In both places, I visited the well-organized tourist information bureaus but they could find no picture of the synagogue and knew nothing of their village’s Jewish history.

In the big city of Nancy, in Lorraine, is the famous Musee de l’ecole de Nancy, with brilliantly designed and executed neavaux arte furniture and porcelain. Look at the names of those who bought the items or for whose homes it was made. Many of them, too, were Jews. One remarkably beautiful vase on display was a gift more than a century ago of the Horticulture Club to its honorary president, also a Jew.

And in the fortress city of Verdun, held by the French army in acts of almost suicidal heroism against a huge German assault lasting almost all of 1916, there is a derelict synagogue and on the memorial to the children killed during the fighting that includes Jewish names.
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Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His latest book is Israel: An Introduction, was published by Yale University Press in January 2012. You can read more of Barry Rubin's posts at Rubin Reportsand now on his new blog, Rubin Reports, on Pajamas Media

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