The Right Coast

July 23, 2004
Paris Diary 
By Maimon Schwarzschild
I am writing from Paris, where I arrived today from London.  I'll do a lecture or two for the University of San Diego law school summer program while I'm here (the sun never sets on the University of San Diego), but the the truth is that this will basically be a week's vacation.

But what a lovely place for it.  Say what you will about France in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries (and in the RightCoast tradition, there is much that should be said, much of it not good).  But Paris is ravishingly beautiful.  Almost everywhere you look in inner Paris, the sheer beauty of the human artifact that is this city takes your breath away.

And whatever the potential or actual economic and demographic problems, there is immense wealth here, and a good life quite widely shared.   Western Europe remains very prosperous, miraculously so by the standards of most of the world.

Now for some shadow on this idyll.  I went to Friday evening services in the leading Liberal synagogue in Paris.  The synagogue is now entirely unmarked on the outside.  Police sit in marked police cars, though, parked conspicuously nearby.  Security guards scrutinise worshippers as they enter, and carefully question any they don't recognise.  The sidewalk has been widened directly outside the synagogue, to make parking impossible and hence to make car bombs more difficult.  In a word, the synagogue is in a state of siege.  France has by far the largest Jewish community in continental Europe (Russia aside).  But the future of this community is deeply uncertain, and even its present is obviously menaced.

Perhaps it wouldn't be so sad (or at least it would be differently sad) if Paris weren't so beautiful and if French life weren't in some ways so attractive.