Jews in Muslim Lands Threatened

While anti-Semitic rallies and sporadic attacks are continuing worldwide, Jews in Muslim lands face an additional danger as a vulnerable minority.

Nissan Ratzlav-Katz ,

Inside Indonesia's sole synagogue
Inside Indonesia's sole synagogue

Jews living in majority-Muslim countries are in a precarious situation as Israel fights the Islamist Hamas regime in Gaza. While pro-Hamas, anti-Semitic rallies and sporadic attacks are continuing worldwide, Jews in Muslim lands face an additional danger as a vulnerable minority.

Synagogue Shut by Force
In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim state, that nation's only synagogue was forcibly shut down and sealed. Located in an ethnic Arab neighborhood of Surabaya, Indonesia's second-largest city, the synagogue became the focus of a Muslim mob last Wednesday following a "free speech forum" held in the city. The small Indonesian synagogue, without benefit of a Torah scroll or rabbi, is in Rivka Sayers' home. She is one of only a handful of Jews living in the Muslim state, most of whom are of mixed European-Asian background.

In addition to forcing the sealing of the Surabaya synagogue, protesters called for a boycott of US products. Anti-Israel and anti-American rallies continued this week, with some 20,000 Indonesian Muslims have gathering in the capital Jakarta on Sunday under the auspices of the the Islamic Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

'We Will Kill You'
In Turkey, synagogues in Izmir were also shut down, but this time out of serious security concerns, after someone scrawled "We will kill you" on the door of one of the biggest synagogues in the city. Synagogues in Turkey have been the target of Islamic fundamentalist and pan-Arab terrorist bombings and shootings in the past, including a double car bombing that killed 20 people in November 2003.

In Istanbul, a shop owned by a local Jewish family was targeted, as well. A huge poster saying, "Do not buy from here, since this shop is owned by a Jew," was plastered on the shop and other posters on the wall said, "Jews and Armenians are not allowed, but dogs are."

On Wednesday, all Turkish high schools and primary schools will pay homage to Gazans killed in Israel's Operation Cast Lead. Art teachers are instructed to dedicate their classes to the topic, "Human Drama in Palestine," and to offer awards to outstanding compositions.

A Turkish-Jewish source wishing to remain anonymous reported that Istanbul is filled with anti-Israel posters and billboards, as well as more explicit graffiti saying things like, "Kill Jews", "Kill Israel," and "Israel should no longer exist in the Middle East."

"We have previously faced some strong reaction regarding previous operations in Gaza and the West Bank, but this time is really different from former ones. I feel open anti-Semitism and hatred from all these people," the Turkish source commented. Openly anti-Semitic propaganda far exceeds anything happening in Europe, according to his observations. The situation, the source concluded, "is becoming much more dangerous day by day."

Approximately 26,000 Jews live in Turkey and the country has become a very popular destination for Israeli tourists.

Iranian Jews Protest Israel
Iranian Jews, most of whom regularly claim to be comfortable in the Islamic Republic, have taken part in anti-Israel rallies sponsored by the regime.
Openly anti-Semitic propaganda far exceeds anything happening in Europe.

On December 30, a protest of Tehran's Jews was held in front of the United Nations' office in the city. Speaking with an Iranian TV station, Rahmatullah Rafii, the chairman of a Tehran-based Jewish organization, said, "Jews in the Islamic Republic of Iran condemn Israel's attack on the people of Gaza."

However, due to the totalitarian nature of the Islamic regime, the true status and views of Iran's Jews - as well as Iran's other citizens - remain hidden from view. Increasing cases of discrimination, including the closing of Jewish day schools and the banning of Hebrew instruction, have been recorded in recent years. About 200 out of Iran's 28,000 Jews immigrated to Israel in 2007, many of them through clandestine means.

Egyptians Want to Ban Visits to Jewish Tomb
The tomb of Rabbi Yaakov Abuhatzeira has become the focus of Egyptian anti-Israel efforts. The Moroccan-born rabbi, who died in 1880, is the grandfather of the late Israeli Kabbalist Yisrael Abuhatzeira, better known as the "Baba Sali". The tomb of Rabbi Yaakov, located in the coastal village of Nekraha, has become a place of pilgrimage for hundreds of Jews in recent years. The largest group regularly comes from Israel in January and is given heavy protection by local security services.

This year, a coalition of Egyptian political opposition parties came together to prevent the pilgrimage of Israelis to the rabbi's tomb. The coalition has brought together unlikely allies, from the far-left Al-Tagamu party to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood. An article in Al-Masri al-Yooum said that the coalition's leader, Gamal Mounib, stated that he holds the Egyptian government responsible for any pilgrims reaching the shrine this year.

Only about 60 Jews currently live in Egypt, while the country's synagogues and the Israeli Embassy in Cairo are heavily guarded by Egyptian soldiers.

Elsewhere in North Africa, the Al-Qaeda offshoot known as Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (North Africa) has issued explicit calls for Muslims to attack Jews "wherever they are found." Jewish communities among Muslim populations constitute the most obvious and immediate targets for incited individuals as well as organized Jihadist cells.