‘Kippah’ rally in Berlin draws thousands protesting anti-Semitism

Analysts warn that anti-Semitism is growing, has spread through much of Europe, and there is no turning it back.

By Steve Leibowitz, World Israel News and AP

Germans of various faiths donned Jewish skullcaps and took to the streets Wednesday in several cities to protest an anti-Semitic attack in Berlin and express fears about growing hatred of Jews in the country. More than 2,000 people — Jews, Christians, Muslims and atheists — put on kippahs in a show of solidarity. Beyond that, hundreds of people also rallied in Cologne, Erfurt, Magdeburg and Potsdam.

The ‘kippah’ protest was triggered by the assault last week of two young men wearing skullcaps in an upscale neighborhood in the German capital. The 21-year-old victim was an Arab Israeli who wore the kippah in a show of solidarity with his Jewish friends. A video of the incident showed a young man whipping him violently with a belt while shouting “Yahudi!” — Jew in Arabic. A 19-year-old Syrian asylum-seeker is being held for the attack, which drew outrage in Germany and sharp condemnation by Chancellor Angela Merkel and other top German officials.

Berlin Mayor Michael Mueller told those gathered at the rally, “Today, we all wear the kippah. Today, Berlin is wearing the kippah.”

Elard Zuehlke, a 26-year-old non-Jewish Berliner, said he came to the rally in front of the city’s synagogue on Fasanenstrasse because “it cannot be that in Germany there is any kind of anti-Semitism — not in schools, not in public, not at work, not in politics, nowhere. This cannot be happening. Germany has to live up to its special responsibility.”

Earlier in the week, German-Jewish leader Josef Schuster said he would advise people visiting big cities against wearing Jewish skullcaps. Schuster’s comments on hiding the skullcap drew sharp criticism from other Jewish leaders, who say Jews should wear a kippah to show they’re not afraid. “Jewish identity is not something we should hide,” said Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal. “We have to be proud of who we are and at the same time fight anti-Semitism.”

Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, who is in Germany to try and convince the European Union to define Hezbollah as a terrorist organization, joined the march as well.

“It is inconceivable that Jews would be afraid to wear kippot in Germany in 2018,” said the politician, who is the son of a Holocaust survivor. “I will not accept that we and our children are afraid as our parents and grandparents were afraid.” He concluded by saying that the message to anti-Semites should be, ‘You will fear us, we will not fear you.”

‘Germany not worst case of anti-Semitism in Europe’

Speaking from Brussels, German-born World Jewish Congress official Maram Stern told World Israel News that “Germany is not the worst case of anti-Semitism in Europe. Things are much worse in France and elsewhere. There was a bad incident in Berlin, but it is not unusual in Europe today. It got more attention because it’s Germany. The government understands that it must react, it does, and we welcome their concern.”

Asked about Schuster’s call to abandon wearing a kippah in public, Stern said, “He is a medical doctor and he cares first and foremost about the safety of the individual. It was not a political comment, but rather concern for his community members.”

Stern also does not agree that the solution is for Jews to fight off their attackers, and he does not view attacks as very likely in Germany. “Children and elderly are among those who wear kippot. Generally there is not a very big danger in Germany and the German Jews have a very good life. They should continue wearing their kippah if it is a genuine religious expression. I do not advice wear the kippah to provoke a reaction. Truthfully, I am more concerned about anti-Semitism in places like Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, France and even the UK,” he said.

Across Europe, anti-Semitism has been on the rise in recent years, and thousands of Jews — mostly from France — have moved to Israel. The rising tensions have come at a time when Germany is grappling with an influx of more than one million, mostly Muslim, migrants, along with the rise of a right-wing nationalist party, the Alternative for Germany.

Muslim migrants ‘contaminated with Jew hatred’

Bobby Brown, a former Diaspora Affairs adviser in the Prime Minister’s office, says that the problem is completely related to mass immigration of Muslims to Europe. Brown does not see an easy solution.

“There must be a combination of responses. The first is that the governments of Europe have to provide massive protection for the Jewish community and re-educate the Muslim migrant community that holds anti-Jewish hostility. Second, Jews must learn to defend themselves and fight back. The third solution is that Jews can leave. Unfortunately, the government cannot put police everywhere, many Jews are physically not able to defend themselves, and most Jews are not willing to move to Israel or elsewhere. Unfortunately, Germany and other places in Europe now have permanent Muslim migrant populations that are contaminated with Jew hatred, and the problem will only get worse.”

In Germany, there were 1,453 anti-Semitic incidents reported in 2017, including 947 in Berlin. Around 200,000 Jews live in Germany, most of them immigrants from the Former Soviet Union.

Fiamma Nirenstein, a European expert at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, told WIN, “There is no solution for European Jews other than to come live in Israel. Throughout Europe there is now a kind of collective BDS against the Jews, not only against Israel. This is not the old anti-Semitism, but it’s now about the huge Muslim presence and its hatred of Israel.”

Nirenstein sees no future for European Jewry. “Maintaining Jewish identity in Europe cannot work. The community is tiny. Sure, they can carry sticks and try to defend themselves from attack. But the Jewish people are not in the same situationas before the Holocaust. We have a Jewish State with an army that defends our people. That is our stick,” she declared.