Young Tunisians on social media extol a video of Rabbi Hattab comparing the tolerant atmosphere between Jews and Muslims in Tunisia to the hostile one in France, where his son was murdered by terrorists last week. There is, of course, some romanticizing going on.
“Tunisia is bereaved!” read the main headline on the front page of Sunday’s Le Temps, a French-language newspaper based in Tunis. Three of the people shot to death in Friday’s hostage-taking at a Parisian branch of the French kosher supermarket chain Hyper Cacher, were Tunisian citizens. One of them was Yoav Hattab, the 21 year-old son of the main rabbi of Tunis. Hattab, who was in Paris to complete his graduate studies, was a patriot: in a photo on the front page of Le Temps, he grins proudly while holding up a blue-inked index finger, proof that he had voted in his country’s first democratic election following the 2011 revolution.
(Rabbi Hattab has been widely described in French-language media as the chief rabbi of Tunisia’s small Jewish community.)
In its report, Le Temps quotes witnesses who describe Hattab as a hero. Not only did he direct some women to safety in the cold storage room, where a Muslim employee from Mali protected them, but he also grabbed one of the weapons belonging to Amedy Coulibaly, the terrorist who stormed the supermarket, and tried to shoot him down. But Hattab didn’t have time to release the safety catch on the weapon before Coulibaly spotted him and shot him dead.
For young Tunisians on social media, Hattab has come to represent their hopes for their country. They are sharing and quoting a France 2 television interview with Rabbi Benjamin Hattab, the dead man’s father, in which he speaks passionately of the easy, mutually respectful relationship between Jews and Muslims in Tunisia. In contrast, he says sorrowfully, the atmosphere in Paris felt so hostile toward Jews that his son called him to apologize for being unwilling to run the risk of wearing his yarmulke in public. It was too dangerous, the young man told his father the rabbi (Haaretz reports that Yoav visited Israel this year, on a Birthright tour).
Shared many times is this excerpt from the interview, when Rabbi Hattab says emphatically, “”Les juifs sont respectés en Tunisie, on n’a...Read More