(April 16, 2019 / JNS) As the burning of the historic Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris sent shock waves around the world on Monday, Israeli and French Jewish leaders expressed their sorrow and condolences for the loss to French national culture the tragedy represents.
“The Notre Dame [cathedral] is among the most beautiful of Paris’s symbols and of France’s in general, but also one of the most important to any cultured person,” Israeli President Rivlin said in a tweet on Monday night.
“Last January, I looked out over the Parisian skyline, all the more beautified by the cathedral’s spire,” he said. “Our hearts are with the citizens of France and the tales of Notre Dame, true and fictional, in prayer that they will endure forever.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed his “deep sorrow over the fire at the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, a cultural and religious heritage site of France and of all humanity.”
Acting Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz said, “On behalf of the State of Israel, I would like to express my deepest solidarity with France and the French nation over the terrible fire at Notre Dame, a world symbol of civilization.”
The 12th-century cathedral is the most visited tourist site in Paris, with some 13 million people entering the church each year to see relics, famed stained glass windows and numerous historic works of art.
New UNESCO secretary-general Audrey Azoulay, a Jewish woman from France, vowed that her U.N. cultural body “stands at France’s side to save and restore this priceless heritage.”
World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder expressed his hope that “the destruction can be restored to allow this unparalleled structure to return to its position of symbolic majesty on the Parisian skyline.”
Indeed, according to officials, the 400 firefighters who battled the blaze at Notre Dame were able to save enough of the building to ensure that the cathedral can be rebuilt.
Joel Mergui, president of the religious affairs body of the French Jewish community, Consistoire Central Israélite de France, said, “We are all in shock, believers and non-believers, Christians and non-Christians, because a jewel of the history of France and Christianity as much as of the heritage of Europe is currently in flames.”
Chief Rabbi of France Haim Korsia joined in offering condolences, saying, “Very sad images of the Notre Dame Cathedral tonight. Our friendship and prayer support with @Eglisecatho and especially [Archbishop of Paris] Bishop Aupetit.”