“It is very often the woman who helps the man to achieve”

“It is very often the woman who helps the man to achieve”
“It is very often the woman who helps the man to achieve”

The JDD. Your latest work, In your eyes: A love in the ghetto (XO), features a young woman, Shulamite, who falls in love with Salomon in 1940, in the heart of the Warsaw guetto, where you yourself were born. Why did you choose a narrator to tell about this terrible period?

Marek Halter. The most heartbreaking testimonies that have come back to us from this era were written by young women, whether Hélène Berr in France, Rutka Laskier in Poland or Anne Frank in the Netherlands. They have all written a diary in which they develop an unparalleled sensitivity and empathy which, it must be said, a man would not have been capable of.

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Your text, like the names of Shulamite and Solomon, refers to the Song of songs. Why this wink?

First, because it is the first canonized text which features the voice of a woman. In the Bible, it presents itself as a kind of dialogue between man and woman, with the woman leading the dance. Then because it is one of the most beautiful erotic writings in all literature!

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My mother who carried my life, when the time came, saved it

The Memory of Abraham (Robert Laffont, 1983), is dedicated to your mother, Perl Halter, who was a Yiddish poet…

My mother who carried my life, when the time came, saved it. In extreme situations, when faced with death, a woman’s instinct is much more resolute than that of a man. When I was a child in the Warsaw guetto and our Catholic friends came to save us, my father wasted his time with political palaver; my mother had already prepared the bundle: she was the one who organized our escape.

Likewise, around ten of your works are devoted to women. What do they represent in History?

Often, people have a dream, a desire that they do not know how to express; Women give them the way, the means to achieve it. You were referring to my work The Memory of Abraham. The first prophet of monotheism was born in Mesopotamia, in the Sumerian Kingdom, to which the West owes a lot: the first cities, the economy and, above all, the abstract alphabet.

Unlike hieroglyphs based on visible objects, this abstract alphabet allowed Humanity to imagine concepts like God, Justice and Love. In Sumer, it was women who taught this alphabet. Among them, Sarah, who married Abraham and pushed him on the path of this invisible God.

It is the same with Tzippora (or Zipporah), the wife of Moses, to whom you also devoted a work…

Moses, sought by Pharaoh’s men, is welcomed by Jethro, priest of Midian, in the desert of Sinai, and his daughter Tzippora, a very beautiful black woman whom he marries. It is Tzippora who takes care of Moses, she who reinforces him in his mission to free the children of Israel, she again who saves their youngest son, Eliezer, punished by God for not having been circumcised according to his laws. Moses had the idea of ​​freedom; He needed the help of a woman, Tzippora, to make his decision.

Mary is the first Jewish mother!

Could the same be said of the relationship between Jesus and his mother, Mary?

To a large extent, it is Mary who decides for Jesus. Long before him, she senses that he is destined to become the Messiah. Remember the wedding at Cana, when Jesus replied: “ What do you want from me, woman? My time has not yet come “. She is the one who takes charge of her son’s destiny. Mary is the first Jewish mother!

Would you say that these cases have universal value?

It is very often the woman, whether a wife or a mother, who helps the man to achieve his goals. It’s no coincidence that a well-known proverb says that behind every famous man, there is a woman!

You devoted a trilogy to women of islam (Robert Laffont, 2014-2015), and first to Mohammed’s wife, Khadija. How did it count in the destiny of the Prophet?

Khadija is learned, she knows several languages; Mahomet is illiterate. This appears in the Sahîh of Al-Bukhârî, the main of the six collections of hadiths. When the angel Gabriel brings him the sacred text and says to him “ Read ! “, three times, Mahomet responds: ” I do not know how to read “. Then the angel will recite the sacred text to him – in Arabic, Quran means “recitation”. It is Khadija, who knows writing, who will help the Prophet to transcribe and disseminate the sacred text.

Two women are at the origin of the two major currents of Islam

In the following two volumes, you tell the destinies of Fatima, the youngest daughter of the Prophet, and Aïcha, his third wife. How are they unique?

Fatima, the daughter of Muhammad and Khadija, is a revered figure in Islam, nicknamed the “brilliant”. As for Aïcha, she is beautiful, young, and has a fabulous memory. As she knows the Koran by heart and remains alone after the death of Mohammed, she sees Islam not as an Empire, unlike Fatima, but as an idea. Fatima and her husband, Ali, were at the origin of Shiism; Aïcha, from Sunnism. Here again, these are two women who are at the origin of the two major currents of Islam.

We have not yet spoken of the first of the women, Eve, to whom you also dedicate a work. Isn’t she the one who brought sin to Humanity?

In writing Eve (Robert Laffont, 2016), I realized how much we owed him! God encloses his creation in paradise, with rules that Adam accepts; Eve is curious, she has a thirst for knowledge and bites the apple from the tree of knowledge. It is thanks to his “original sin” that we have schools today! Because Humanity, through it, desired to know. If we had followed the rules, like Adam, we would have remained in the Stone Age, that is to say in paradise!

The taste for knowledge is one of the characteristics of your female portraits. Marie-Madeleine, for example, created an academy open to women…

The name Mary Magdalene comes from Mary of Magdala, a village located on the shore of Lake Tiberias. There, she created what was undoubtedly the first school open to women: a Greek academy. She is also the first Christian. It is not impossible that she was the thirteenth disciple of Christ, or even that she attended his last meal – she would then have been “forgotten” in the painting. The Lord’s Supperby Leonardo da Vinci.

At a time when the world threatens to tear itself apart again, women represent immense hope

These female figures are ancient. What is the place of women today?

It is more important than ever. In France, the two majority unions are led by women, as are the National Assembly and a growing number of large companies. I believe that at a time when the world threatens to tear itself apart again, women represent immense hope.

How do they represent hope?

I understood this during the war between Ireland and the United Kingdom. Hundreds of thousands of women from both sides, who had lost their sons and husbands, gathered in Belfast to march for peace. I am convinced that it was their action that ended the war.

Would such a solution be possible between Gaza and Israel?

If there is hope, it is in the hands of women. Do you have the reaction of Ismaïl Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas who took refuge in Qatar, after his sons lost their lives in the bombings? He spoke of an “offering on the path to liberation”. Do you think his wife could have said such a word? No, of course. Because women carry and preserve life.

But power in the region, on both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, is largely held by men…

These powers, as fanatical as they are, could not resist a march of hundreds of thousands of women, as in Belfast. This is my project and my dream: to organize a march of 300,000 women, Palestinian and Israeli, who would descend from Jerusalem to Gaza. An Israeli association, Women Wage Peace, has made itself known by developing such initiatives. Only women will be able to overcome the desire for revenge, sometimes legitimate, in the name of life, which is at least as legitimate. No one will dare shoot them. Through their mobilization, only they will be able to prove to the world that peace is possible.


Last Saturday, the JDD interviewed essayist Éric Chacour about his unexpected passion: “Akhmîm’s embroideries show a world of colors and tenderness”

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