Helene and Melvil...

[This is a re-edit of the blog I posted yesterday].

Antoine Leiris’ wife, Helene Muyal-Leiris, was among the 89 people murdered in the Bataclan concert hall in Paris nine days ago.

Here is Antoine's response.  It was broadcast by the BBC five days after the attacks.

'On Friday night you stole away the life of an exceptional human being, the love of my life, the mother of my son.  But you will not have my hatred.  If the God for whom you kill so blindly made us in His image, each bullet in my wife's body would have been a wound in His heart.

I will not give you the gift of hating you.  Responding to hatred with anger would be to give in to the same ignorance that has made you what you are.

You want me to be afraid.  To cast a mistrustful eye on my fellow citizens.  To sacrifice my freedom for security.

You lost.

I saw her this morning [in the morgue].  She was just as beautiful as she was when she left home on Friday evening; as beautiful as when I fell madly in love with her more than 12 years ago.

Of course I am devastated with grief - I will give you that tiny victory.

But this will be a short-term grief.  I know that she will join us every day and that we will find each other again in a paradise of free souls, which you will never have access to.

And I will raise Melvil, our son, happy and free.  Because No, you will not have his hatred either.’

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Brenda has sent me another of her poignant jokes.  As a reminder about the fallibility of religions of all kinds, I reckon it’s worth a blogposting all to itself.

Several centuries ago, the Pope decreed that all the Jews had to convert to Catholicism, or leave Italy. There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal: he'd have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy; if the Pope won, they'd have to convert or leave.

The Jewish people met and picked an aged and wise rabbi to represent them in the debate. However, as the rabbi spoke no Italian, and the Pope spoke no Yiddish, they agreed that it would be a 'silent' debate.

On the chosen day, the Pope and rabbi sat opposite each other. The Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers.

The rabbi looked back and raised one finger.

Next, the Pope waved his finger around his head.

The rabbi pointed to the ground where he sat.

The Pope brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine.

The rabbi pulled out an apple.

With that, the Pope stood up and declared himself beaten and said that the rabbi was too clever. The Jews could stay in Italy.

Later, the Cardinals met with the Pope, and asked him what had happened.

The Pope said, ‘First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity.  He responded by holding up a single finger to remind me there is still only one God common to both our faiths.

Then, I waved my finger around my head to show him that God was all around us. The rabbi responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us.

I pulled out the wine and host to show that, through the perfect sacrifice, Jesus has atoned for our sins.  But the rabbi pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin.

He bested me at every move and I could not continue.’

Meanwhile, the Jewish community gathered to ask the rabbi how he'd won.

‘I haven't a clue,’ said the rabbi. ‘First, he told me that we had three days to get out of Italy, so I gave him the finger.

Then he tells me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews, but I told him emphatically that we were staying right here.’

‘And then what? asked a woman.

‘Who knows?' said the rabbi. ‘He took out his lunch, so I took out mine.

Thanks, Brenda.
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