Lattack of October 7 generated a psychological collapse among most French Jews or of Jewish origin. The wording is important, because this inner shaking concerned not only believers or those who consider themselves members of the Jewish community, but also atheist Jews, converts and those non-practitioners who eat sausage on Yom Kippur.
All were brutally returned to their Jewishness. This is because the Hamas attack has brought to the fore in the 21st centurye century the images of a time that we thought was over. Those of entire villages macred in a stunning outburst of violence. That of an enraged crowd, as in Dagestansimilar to that which “hunted the Jews” in 19th century Russiae century.
And with the return of the pogroms came the specter of wandering. Where to flee if the refuge state is threatened? Where to flee if anti-Semitism also takes hold of the United States, land of exile when Europe gave in to barbarism? In this respect, it is necessary to measure the impact that the pro-Palestinian demonstrations in New York and Washington may have had on people of Jewish origin, but also the letter, signed by several groups of Harvard University studentsdesignating the Israeli regime as “entirely responsible for all the violence”, less than forty-eight hours after the Hamas attack.
October 7 thus constituted an unprecedented shock and awakened a historical trauma. This concept, used by sociologist and historian Paul Bois (1906-1990), is distinct from that of transgenerational trauma describing the imprint left on the descendants of Holocaust survivors. Historical trauma does not refer to a specific event from the childhood or family past. It arises from extremely violent historical episodes which imprint themselves on the collective memory and can resurface during a new traumatic event.
Having said that, a question should haunt us. Why does the awakening of the historical trauma that was the Shoah mainly concern people of Jewish origin? Wasn’t the rest of the population on the European continent when two thirds of European Jews were exterminated? Shouldn’t the psychological breakdown be collective?
If a gap opens among our Jewish compatriots or those of Jewish origin, it is surely also due to the chilling realization that this historical trauma only exists for them. From then on, another fear awakens. That of being abandoned once again by fellow citizens who, deep down, continue to consider the Jews as a foreign body.
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