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Op-Ed: EXPOSÉ: No-go Areas for Jews in Europe

Israel has room for all Jews and welcomes them, but that does not have any bearing on what is going on in Europe. Rabbi Lau predicted that European Jewish history is nearing its end.
Published: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 8:50 AM


Surprised that Israelis entering Jordan are required to deposit religious Jewish items, like skullcaps and tefillin, for "security reasons?

It's happening in many European countries as well, where Jews are once again in grave danger and Judeophobia has become the common currency of politics.

Jews in Denmark have just been warned by Israeli officials not to appear publicly wearing Jewish religious symbols such as yarmulkes or stars of David in order to avoid increasing anti-Israel and anti-Semitic altercations. “We advise Israelis who come to Denmark and want to go to the synagogue to wait to don their skull caps until they enter the building and not to wear them in the street, irrespective of whether the areas they are visiting are seen as being safe,” said Israel’s ambassador to Denmark, Arthur Avnon.

Got that? To be identifiable as a Jew in public in Europe is to invite violence. There are European areas in its bigger cities where you cannot go outside looking like a Jew - it's like being in Gaza.

In the last few weeks, an Israeli representative of the Magen David Adom was attacked at Copenhagen Central Station, while in central Copenaghen Jews who were wearing a kippah were have been phisically and verbally attacked.

An elderly Israeli man was assaulted by a group of Arabic-looking men when he ate a kebab at Nørrebro. They kicked the victim several times and tore his necklace, on which a visible star of David was hanging, off.

That's why today most of Danish Jews think twice before deciding whether to wear a necklace with a Star of David on it.

In the enlightened Europe of today, there is witch hunt against any authentic Jew with a beard and a skullcap.

Jewish students have been advised not to wear a kippa in the streets in Germany either. The Jewish Abraham Geiger Theological College in Potsdam advises its rabbis against wearing a kippah in public, while the orthodox Or Avner school in Berlin has issued similar guidelines.

Whenever its pupils go on trips to the zoo or the museum, Jewish pupils are warned: "Speak German, not Hebrew, put a baseball cap over your kippah so you don't give stupid people something to get annoyed about." Camouflaged in this way, young Jews travel on Berlin's metro trains. The rector of the school has explained that "it is safer to not appear to be a Jewish person".

A few days ago Finland's Jewish community was advised not to wear the skullcap in public for fear of anti-Semitic attacks.

In Malmö, Sweden, the country which once gave the world saints like Raoul Wallenberg, members of the local synagogue decided not to keep on their kippahs upon exiting their synagogue.

Norway's Jewish Community has advised its members against speaking Hebrew loudly on the streets or wearing Jewish emblems. Norwegian police have just increased security around Oslo’s main synagogue.

A teacher, Inge Telhaug, who was wearing a Magen David around his neck under a T-shirt, was informed by the Kristiansand Adult Education Center that wearing the star could be deemed a provocation towards the many Muslim students at the school.

In France several Jews were attacked and beaten in the streets after wearing the skullcap. In Paris it is safer for young Jewish men to walk in groups, not alone. They should wear baseball caps instead of the traditional head covering to avoid being attacked by anti-Semites. In many neighborhoods of Marseille and Lyons, it is no longer safe for Jews to walk the streets.

A few weeks ago a Jewish man was attacked and rendered unconscious in a Paris metro. How did the anti-Semitic mob recognize that he was Jewish? Because of a philosophy book by the chief rabbi of Paris that he was reading in the metro when he was attacked.

Meanwhile, half the Jewish families in Villepinte, working-class suburb north of Paris, have left due to anti-Semitism, fleeing to other Paris neighborhoods considered safer for Jews, or out of France entirely. Villepinte's 40-year-old synagogue, already torched in 2001, will close because it often lacks a minyan.

In the UK, there have been many cases like that of an Orthodox child, who was wearing a kippa and tzitzit, verbally threatened and physically intimidated by a hooded youth as he travelled on a London bus.

When the faithful leave Rome's main synagogue they immediately hide the skullcap. Police patrol the area day and night.

In the Netherlands, the country of Baruch Spinoza, police officers began wearing yarmulkes to catch Dutch Jew haters in the act of physical or verbal assault. Jewish students are told to "put a cap over your kippah".

In Amsterdam, the shelter of Spanish Jews who fled from Inquisition, the twenty-five Lester M. Wolff van Ravenswade described the difficulties faced by Jews living in an open letter to the newspaper NRC Handelsblad: "I cannot go to public events dressed as a Jew, let alone go out on Saturday night. Which party do I have to vote for in order to live safely with the kippah on my head?".

Everywhere in Europe, steel barriers are in place outside certain buildings with Jewish or Israeli connections to prevent parking.

In many British areas where Jews live the "Shomrin", or guardians, patrol the streets like Israelis do in isolated "settlements" in Israel.

Last autumn the ancient Dutch synagogue of Weesp became the first synagogue in Europe since the Second World War to cancel Shabbat services due to the threats to the safety of the faithful.

Eighty years ago next January, Adolf Hitler seized power in Germany.

Every time I see a Jewish child walking down the street in Vienna, Paris or Rome wearing a kippah, I know that Hitler did not get to finish his job. It makes me feel proud - or at least somewhat better.

But the Holocaust, in which two thirds of European Jewry were annihilated, did not end when Nazi Germany and its satellites were routed militarily. The spirit of annihilation continues eighty years later. That's why Israel's former chief rabbi, Meir Lau, predicted that European Jewish history is nearing its end.

Indeed, it seems a tragic but unavoidable process: Europe as a Jew-free continent or a realm of fear in which Jews will survive as "invisible", like during the Inquisition, where even lighting candles on Shabbath is a hazard because someone could see the holy flames from the street.

Europe’s streets are getting very dark these days and the sublime orchestras are playing Richard Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde” and “Die Meistersinger” once more, while the faith in “truth as beauty and beauty as truth” can again  meet its horrible end.