By COLlive reporter
Photos as marked: Israel Bardugo
Dozens of world leaders including Muslim representatives and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined some 1.5 million French citizens in a march through Paris on Sunday amid high security, in an unprecedented tribute to victims of this week’s Islamist militant attacks.
French President Francois Hollande was joined by other heads of state and dignitaries — several who linked arms.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas were among over 40 foreign leaders marching with President Hollande.
Before taking off for Paris early Sunday morning, Netanyahu said “I am leaving for Paris to participate in the rally together with world leaders as part of a renewed struggle against Islamic terror, which threatens all of humanity, which I have urged for many years,” he said.
Though the march began at 3 p.m., the peaceful crowd swelled in size as night fell. One man in the crowd said the French people must not “give in to fear.” Terrorists, he said, “will not win.”
Others carried signs that echoed the now-famous phrase that honored slain journalists at the magazine Charlie Hebdo, “Je suis Charlie.”
“We are all cops.” “We are all Jews.” “We are all French,” many signs read.
One Lubavitcher man held a sign which read, “We are here,” in French and Yiddish, a point that was reiterated by Rabbi Levi Matusof, Shliach in Brussels, Belgium, to Sky News.
“Jews have their place in France,” he said. “We should be able to practice our Judaism freely and openly, here in France and anywhere else in Europe, in full security and freedom.”
Matusof said his family is very close to the family of Yoav Hattab hy”d, who was shot by the terrorist in the Kosher Supermarket on Friday.
“His family is very strong,” Matusof said. “Last night they told a gathering of Jews in a Synagogue a few meters from here, ‘Keep on practicing your Judaism. It’s very important to be able to do it openly and freely.”‘
During the march, Shluchim from throughout Paris were seen offering participants the opportunity to put on Tefillin in the merit of those who were killed.
After the rally, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and French President Francois Hollande received an ovation on Sunday night as they entered the Great Synagogue of Paris (Synagogue de la Victoire), where a memorial service was held for the four victims of an attack on a kosher supermarket in eastern Paris on Friday – Yoav Hattab, Yohan Cohen, Philippe Braham and Francois-Michel Saada.
When the prime minister entered, some members of the audience chanted “Bibi” – Netanyahu’s nickname – and “Israel will live, Israel will win,” waving the flag of Israel.
“Today France was in the streets, all of France,” said Joël Mergui, the head of the Central Consistory of France Israelite. “And the Jews of France were also in the streets to defend freedom of expression, to defend Charlie (Hebdo), to defend our democracy… because the Jewish people are democracy.”
Merguri, one of the only speakers, added: “Through our History, the Jewish people, who have always been confronted with hatred, have never hated others … The synagogue may be the only place of worship where no one has ever supported the hatred for others. The hatred of Jews and the hatred of democracy are the same thing and must be fought in the same way… I no longer want to hear that Jews are afraid. We are not afraid.”
Video: Netanyahu greeted with cheers at Paris Grand Synagogue