The International Napoleonic Society and the Israeli Society for Napoleonic Research sponsored an outstanding conference entitled Napoleon and the Jews. This conference was designed to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of the Sanhedrin Assembled by Napoleon, as well as the Tenth Anniversary of the Israeli Society for Napoleonic Research (I.S.R.N.). The conference took place on 31 May 2007 at Tel Aviv University, and featured some of Israel’s top Napoleonic and religious scholars. Representing the INS and its president, Ben Weider, were noted historians General Michel Franceschi of Corsica and INS Executive Vice-President J. David Markham of the United States, joined by their wives Nelly and Barbara, respectively. Markham served with ISNR President Mordechai Gichon as co-coordinator of the conference.
General Franceschi delivered a lecture entitle Napoléon, victime de sa liberation des juifs (Napoleon: Victim of his Liberation of the Jews), which recounted the numerous difficulties Napoleon faced from family and supporters, as well as enemies, because of his enlightened policies towards the Jews. Markham carried through on that theme with a paper entitled Napoleon an Anti-Semite? Napoleon, Religious Freedom and the Jews. In his presentation, Markham agreed with Franceschi that while Napoleon occasionally fell prey to domestic pressure based on anti-Semitism, his overall policies were the most enlightened in Europe and the Jews did far better under Napoleon than under any other leader to that time. He closed with an interesting and important comparison of Napoleon with the American president Harry Truman, concluding that both men ultimately resisted anti-Semitic pressure and were themselves definitely not anti-Semitic.
Israel is home to a number of important Napoleonic sites, and the ISRN provided the Franceschis and Markhams an outstanding opportunity to visit such places as Jaffa and Acre, as well as the ancient sites of Jerusalem and Masada. Various members of the ISNR hosted social events for the scholars, giving Napoleonic historians from three continents an excellent opportunity to interact informally with each other. All participants left the congress convinced that it had been a great success!
For the past ten years, the Israeli Society for Napoleonic Research has conducted annual circles of lectures delivered by eminent experts in their fields. The programs have also included field trips and round table discussions. Founded 1997 by Mordechai Gichon with the help of other scholars, the ISNR is based on the belief that the period from the French Revolution to the “Concert of Europe” following the Bourbon Restoration was the decisive starting line for the social and political processes that influence present day life. By initiating a continuous program of activities, many of which emphasized various elements of Napoleon’s influence as the dominant figure of this period, the ISNR has been able to intensify and deepen the interests of scholars, students and laypersons alike in this fascinating period.
In July of 1999, the ISNR held the much acclaimed International Napoleonic Congress, Napoleon and the French in Egypt and the Holy Land 1798-1800. This Congress included numerous papers that are preserved in proceedings of the Congress as well as site and battlefield tours, and was conducted as a joint enterprise with the INS, whose Executive Vice-President, J. David Markham, served as co-director with Mordechai Gichon.
The current board of the ISNR (Brig. General Yizhak Bar-On, Eli Eyal, Alon Klebanoff, Tsvi Yshurun and Mordechai Gichon) should be extremely proud of their work in producing this conference.
Here is a list of the papers that were presented:
Professor Mordechai Gichon
Général Michel Franceschi
Professor C. Klein
Dr. M. Zelkin
Dr. F. Oz-Salzberger
Dr. D. Avraham