It is on the Paris/Tel Aviv/Paris flight that I think about the question “All of us, migrant(s); what about me?” On the outward journey as well as on the return journey, these flights are full of migration stories. Old and young migrants over several generations.
On board, children or grandchildren of those who fled the pogroms of Eastern Europe or survivors of the Shoah; others, mostly from North Africa, before that being driven out of Spain or Portugal. All of them carry a past made of ruptures, an unstable present and a faith in a stable future in the Promised Land. Many of them go back and forth between the two countries, their families split up, their hearts divided over several geographical areas. Some end up settling in Israel; others return, their dream difficult to transform in a country made up of more than 70 different origins; all coming from distant or recent migrations. Often, on these journeys, there are people who meet again, family names that resonate, stories of villages that are reborn, moving reunions.
On the outward journey, my neighbour on the right is a young Israeli Arab, a student at Tel Aviv University, smartphone and trendy clothes; how does he live and project himself in this region marked by complex migration flows? In front of me, a sister on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Not far away, religious Jews reading or praying along the way; permanent travellers in other migratory spaces.
I am returning to France, having found, after several years of research, the tomb of my great-grandfather born in Tiberias at the end of the 19th century. A wise man who left Palestine for Tunisia where he was Chief Rabbi of Sfax and returned to die in his native land.
On this plane, we all shared the same experience before yesterday. That of the alarm siren that sounded in the early hours of the morning throughout the country, warning us to return to shelters here and there. It was the first time for me, just waking up, that I had to choose one or two essential things to take. In a daze, I followed my neighbours up the stairs, the only shelter we could find. A shower of rockets rained down on Tel Aviv, fortunately stopped in their deadly tracks. Children, old people, Israelis or tourists, we were all the same target. After several hours of waiting, in my nightgown, with my passport in hand, I was able to return to my accommodation. How can I prepare myself for the next time? Israelis have integrated impermanence into their daily lives. I promised myself to at least make the effort to learn Hebrew. The schools remained closed all day. The streets, which are usually so lively, were out of bounds and no one could go out. I don't know if I paid attention to the birdsong that I love so much in this city, but it was no longer covered by the incessant noise of cars. All my points of reference were disrupted.
I am returning to France, inhabited by these faces that have travelled with me, marked by the feeling of my closeness to all of them, migrant, yesterday and today, and I am thinking more than ever of the future of our children.