PARIS – The flags are back at full mast, the snipers have descended from the roofs and the marchers have gone back to work. World leaders are heading home, the traffic has unsnarled, and the wind seems to have died down, just a little. But the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket on the eastern side of Paris remains closed.
The “H” from the “CACHER” sign out front is hanging precariously. The blue electric lights of the “ER” at the end are blown out. Bullet holes scar the front door. The side door is boarded up. Police tape is stretched around the building and a low security barrier has been erected – and is getting covered with piles of bouquets, notes and placards.
Throughout the day and into the evening, as the temperatures drop again, the stream of visitors continues. Many leave bouquets – roses mainly, but tulips and daisies, too. Others try to light memorial candles, their lighters and matches losing out, again and again, in the battle with the wind. Placards play on every conceivable variation of the same slogan, mixing up the words: Charlie, Jews, Muslims, Police and France.
There are the journalists, of course, and a lot of Jews. There are tourists taking photos, and an attractive young woman who wraps herself in a big Israeli flag and wanders around. Somewhat inexplicably, a banner from Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan, is strung up on a fence. An old man with a long beard weaves through the crowd selling key chains with the likeness of the Lubavitcher rebbe for two Euros each. Another hawker is selling the free Jewish local paper, Israel Actualités, for a Euro.
And then there are the Muslims. They have come here, too.
Fouad Houcine, a 36-year-old engineer who lives all the way around the other side of the Périphérique loop road, left work early and showed up with a cardboard sign. “I am a Muslim. I have come to share our pain,” it reads. If one looks closely, it’s easy to see it was written twice, with great wobbly care – once in pencil to make sure all the words fit in, and then copied over again in bright green Magic Marker.
“The Israeli prime minister is wrong to get involved and tell Jews to come ‘home’ to Israel. This matter is between us in France,” Fouad says. “If the Jews of France leave – we will not be the same. We are together in this.”
His sign, his explanation and, above all, his religion provoke discussions, with a semi-circle gathering around him here, by the falling H and the piles of bouquets. “You cannot deny that the rise of anti Semitism came after the rise of immigration to this country,” a woman lectures him. “I don’t think it was immigration. It was the behavior of Israel toward the Palestinians that changed things,” another stranger weighs in. And so it goes.
“This is not us. We are not haters. We are against this violence,” says grandmother of four Sadya Djillai, 69, a Muslim with no placard but similar sentiments of peace. Retired from her job as a math teacher, she has been here all day and her face, framed by a head covering, is chapped from the cold. On Sunday, she was here too.
Yasmine Faraj, 48, who was born in Agadir, Morocco, saw Djillai on television on Sunday and figured that if the grandmom could come out and speak her truth, she should, too. “Let’s put politics aside,” she says to whoever is listening. “No, I am not Charlie. I abhor their humor [Charlie Hebdo]. I am not Jewish, either. But I am a Muslim against killing.”
“I would often go buy Bazooka gum in there,” says a Congolese immigrant, Faustin Kyenge, who lives around the corner. He was home sleeping when the terrorists burst into the Hyper Cacher on Friday afternoon, because he works nights. The shooting awoke him. “Don’t cry,” he tells Faraj, who has started crying.
Directly across the street, at the Boucherie Gourmet – a sort of upscale version of the Hyper Cacher – where such items as gourmet kosher foie gras are on offer, the manager, Yaacov Dery, is accepting condolences from customers and passersby alike.
“Everyone actually wants to say something to the guys running the place across the street,” he explains. “But since it’s all boarded up, and they really want to say something, and I am also kosher, they tell me instead.” One woman, buying pareve whipped cream, gets teary-eyed. She might have been in there too on Friday, she says, relaying a long story about her daughter-in-law holding her up. Dery does not rush her. Djillai wanders in to warm up.
“Today, we are all in this together,” says Daniel Bensousan, a sports teacher at one of the two nearby Jewish day schools who has come to hang out in the Boucherie Gourmet, “but these sentiments of the Muslims do not represent any majority voice. Tomorrow they will be different. And the next day, more complicated yet.” Djillai, walking back out, looks at him. “I hope you are wrong,” she says.