Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldThe writer has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards of several major multinational corporations in Europe and North America.He is board member and former chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and recipient of the LIfetime Achievement Award (2012) of the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism.
“Before I came to Israel I lived in Buitenveldert, Amsterdam’s most Jewish neighborhood. I attended Jewish schools and belonged to a Jewish youth organization. I had mainly Jewish friends and relatively little contact with non-Jews. Yet even in this reality, I was well aware of the anti-Semitic threat in the Netherlands. For this reason, all synagogues have guards, for example.”
Alon Zomer was born in 1991 and emigrated to Israel in 2009. In the Netherlands, he was a synagogue cantor and gave boys bar mitzvah lessons. He uses a pseudonym as he wishes to protect the safety of his family in the Netherlands.
“I always wore a yarmulke, even in public. For a while I worked at the kosher butcher shop in the Rivierenbuurt neighborhood. I had many anti-Semitic experiences in that area. Dutchmen often cursed or stared at me. A number of times they made a Hitler salute. Moroccan youngsters did that as well.
When things become violent, Dutch bystanders do nothing. They just watch. Sometimes they even find it humorous.
However, they also sometimes became violent.
“When I was cursed at, I usually remained silent. Sometimes though, I had a feeling of ‘Not everyone can insult me.’ Then I said something back like, ‘Why did you say that?’ or, ‘I do not want to be insulted by you.’ Moroccan youths often cannot handle this. They believe that if you answer them, you are an ‘arrogant dirty Jew’ or the like.
“Mainly Moroccans become violent on occasion. Fortunately, I have had a number of years of self-defense training. There are many Moroccans in Amsterdam. If they see a Moroccan fighting with a Jew, they come and help the Moroccan, even if they don’t know him. All one can do is hit an attacker once or twice. Then one must run away, otherwise tens of Moroccans will soon surround you.
“When things become violent, Dutch bystanders do nothing. They just watch. Sometimes they even find it humorous. In the best case scenario, they will call the police when no one is watching them. They’ll never say, ‘Leave him alone,’ or anything like that.
“Due to this situation, I frequently felt unsafe in Amsterdam. If I was in the town’s center late at night, I always made sure I was not alone. Whenever someone approached me I was immediately on guard. It then often turned out that there was no threat at all. If I walked alone on the street and saw a group of non-Western youths, I felt unsafe. Unfortunately, this feeling was often justified. I wasn’t afraid, but it is unpleasant when one anticipates a confrontation. Especially when it happens in the country you were born and grew up in.
“One of the most unpleasant confrontations happened when I was in the center of Amsterdam one afternoon. I was walking on an almost deserted street. A Moroccan youth saw my yarmulke and cursed me. I ignored him. Then he cursed me and my family and added that it was a pity that Hitler didn’t kill all of us.
"That hurt me. I shouted that he should leave the Netherlands and go back to his home country. In retrospect, what I did wasn’t very smart, but should one just accept always being cursed at?
“His friends started yelling. He blocked my path and didn’t let me pass. I told him that he should let me go, that there was no reason to attack me. When I tried to pass, he started to push and then he tripped me. I got up quickly and was nervous. Some eight youths surrrounded me. I tried to run away. One of the youths grabbed me and said that I had to apologize because this street was forbidden to Jews. I said that I wasn’t looking for problems and just wanted to leave and be left alone.
"The leader of the group pushed me hard backwards. I turned around and hit him in his stomach and face. He fell to the ground. I ran away before they could hit me back. Luckily I had learned to react quickly. In retrospect, perhaps I should have lodged a complaint with the CIDI organization which monitors anti-Semitism in the Netherlands, but I didn’t think about it at the time.
“A few of my friends in Amsterdam have also been attacked by Moroccans. One of them rode his bicycle during the day with a yarmulke on. Four Moroccans cursed at him. He tried to continue riding, but they beat him and he had to be hospitalized. He was lucky and recuperated. Another friend who walked with a yarmulke was attacked with a knife, and his arm was gashed. He still has a scar.
“A number of Jewish youngsters I know have left the Netherlands for Israel due to the anti-Semitism. That was not the impetus in my case. I came to Israel because I believe this is where God wants me to be.”