In France, Jews and Arabs have been drifting apart over the past 50 years. A Paris exhibition commissioned by one of the country’s leading historians hoped to build bridges.
Only by rediscovering a vision of the good life that reckons with the suffering inherent in human experience and conceives of individuals as social animals bound by duty to one another—Edmund Burke’s “partnership of the dead, the living and the unborn”—do we stand a chance of bending the rising generation’s egotism and make them want to grace their communities and nations with new human beings.
In Western Europe, meanwhile, our globalized, post-national era of peace and prosperity has wrought decadence and complacency. It has erased from the national consciousness the blood and tears needed to get independence and to keep it.
Having thrived for millennia amidst Arab societies despite their inferior status, Oriental Jews were swiftly uprooted in a matter of decades by the Arab-Israeli conflict. A once-in-a-lifetime exhibit at Paris’s Institute for the Arab World attempts to synthesize conflicting narratives of trauma and nostalgia.