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      Op-Ed: Holland: Both Anti-Semitism and Sympathy for Jews

      Published: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 10:15 PM
      Interview Series: Netherlands Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs says, "I don't go to bed anymore without putting the alarm on."


      People often insult me in public. It can happen almost anywhere, such as at the train station in Rotterdam or in the center of Amersfoort, the town where I live. For instance, someone may shout at me ‘Yehoud’ —  a negative term for a Jew in Arabic. When I walked home from our synagogue a few years ago, a child of about 10 years old shouted out ‘Dirty stinking Jew.’

      “At train stations where a lot of youngsters hang out, I am almost always insulted. These shouts do not only come from non-Western immigrants, but from native Dutchmen as well. If I go to the synagogue on Saturday afternoon I am shouted at not only at the mosque but also near the hockey-field.”

      Chief Rabbi Binyomin Jacobs is head of the IPOR — the Rabbinate for the Jewish communities outside of Amsterdam — and also the Rabbi of the Sinai Center, the only Jewish psychiatric hospital in Europe. He has been interviewed by several Dutch media on the anti-Semitism he experiences and by Arutz Sheva in the past..

      “I perceive that the aggression against Jews who are recognizable by their dress has increased greatly. On the other hand, there is also an increase in sympathy toward us. When I enter a train, someone may just shake my hand and say ‘Shalom’ or something positive about Jews and Israel.

      “Developments in the Netherlands are worrisome. Whenever something dramatic happens in Israel, people start shouting at you ‘Israel’ or ‘Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas.’ Once I had a very shocking experience. A non-Jewish psychologist and I entered a train full of Feyenoord soccer fans. They started to chant: ‘Jews to the gas.’ I had the feeling that this whole train of ‘ordinary Dutchmen’ was against us.

      “The psychologist shrank from fear. I thought that displaying signs of anxiety wouldn’t be helpful, thus I feigned that I was indifferent to it, as a sign of strength. One may consider this incident as just an act of hooliganism, yet if one of these idiots had attacked us, many more would have probably followed him.” 

      “Across from our house is a school with children who come from greatly varied backgrounds. One day a Turkish lady walked up to me, holding a young child tightly by the hand. The child looked deathly afraid. The lady said to the child, ‘Don’t be frightened, this grandfather won’t hurt you. He’s a nice man.’ The boy seemed to be of Moroccan origin and thought that I would kidnap him. He had apparently been told that Jews are dangerous. That lady wanted to teach him otherwise.

      “Such feelings are heightened because in the mosques here, a film was shown in which Israel is falsely accused of kidnapping Arab children to give their eyes to Jewish children. Afterwards, the Arab child is blind and the Jewish child can see again. A kid who has heard this is obviously afraid.

      “At a kindergarten, a three year old child from Somalia called me ‘a dirty Jew.’ I cannot debate with a small child! The teacher who was Dutch went to speak with the child’s parents about this incident. Altering such behavior however demands a major cultural change!

      “The authorities do far too little about the criminality against Jews. One New Year’s Eve, hooligans shouted in front of my house, ‘Jews Jews’ and started to destroy my gate. I called the police, who arrived an hour and a half later.

      “The Board of the Rabbinate decided that I need to have an alarm system at home which is connected directly to the police station. Initially I thought this was nonsense. But the system was put in nevertheless. I am not afraid, but it surprised me that I felt more secure with the alarm. This feeling in itself frightened me. I don’t go to bed anymore without putting the alarm on.

      “A major problem for the Jewish community is that the Dutch media is also anti-Israeli. They use expressions which are a new type of anti-Semitism. I try to correct that as much as possible.

      I remember a big photograph in the local newspaper Amersfoortse Courant of an Israeli tank. The article said that it had run over and killed a Palestinian. Next to it was a small news item about how during that same week in another country, 200 executions had taken place.

      “I asked the editors: ‘Why do you devote a quarter of a page to a dead Palestinian and only a small article to 200 dead people elsewhere? They replied, ‘We don’t have a journalist in that country.’ Just to clarify, I believe that one Palestinian killed is one too many. Afterwards however, it turned out that he had not been killed, nor had the tank run him over.”

      This is a shortened version of an interview which appeared in Dutch in Manfred Gerstenfeld’s bestselling book “The Decay: Jews in a Rudderless Netherlands".