Protests in Barcelona
Protests in BarcelonaReuters

Hundreds of thousands have taken to the streets of Barcelona in recent days, demonstrating for and against independence for the Catalonia region of Spain.

Rabbi David Liberzon, a Chabad emissary in the city, told Arutz Sheva that the debate itself touches deeply on the city's Jews, but the protests a little less so.

"The debate affects the community because there are people who favor the move and some people are against it, like every political issue. I would say that in Barcelona, opinions are divided and there are protests from both sides, with the power of opponents of separation from Spain being less, because people who support the separation of Catalonia have nothing to lose. In the early days of the tumult, it was felt throughout the city. Today, it's concentrated mostly in a certain region of the city, next to the parliament."

According to Liberzon, Shabbat observers weren't affected by the demonstrations this past Shabbat. "Yesterday, 350,000 people took to the streets and I didn't hear or feel it. It was a regular Shabbat for us."

Rabbi Liberzon notes that a police presence is felt much more in the Jewish areas, but attributes this to other reasons. "There is more security but not because of this. Since the attempted terror attack in the Jewish community in Halle, Germany, the police have taken it upon themselves to have a police car in front of every synagogue or Jewish school. I don't know how long it will continue."

He notes that anti-Semitism is not particularly noticeable in the city. "In Spain, we are a minority that has no identity in society. We aren't prominent within society because there are so few Jews. The number of Jews in the community is about 1,500 families."

"There is no anti-Semitism in the street. It's true that that there's anti-Semitism in the media even more than other places but it's not felt on a day to day basis. I always walk around with a kippah (skullcap) and hat and it doesn't bother anyone . I don't walk around in areas that I think won't be comfortable for me."