German government declares attack “anti-Semitic” as Israeli and Jewish leaders warn Europe to pay attention to rising anti-Jewish hatred on the continent.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
German officials as well as Israeli and Jewish leaders condemned the Wednesday terrorist attack in which a right-wing extremist shot and killed two people and seriously wounded two others near a synagogue during the Yom Kippur holiday services in Halle, Germany.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel went to a major Berlin synagogue the night of the attack to attend a vigil for the victims.
A government spokesman told the media that the chancellor condemned the shooting and expressed her solidarity “for all Jews on the holy day of Yom Kippur.”
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the attack was an act of anti-Jewish hatred.
The suspect was armed with explosive material and planned to carry out a “massacre” in the synagogue on the holiest day of the Jewish year, according to German officials.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent condolences to the victims’ families and his “wishes for a speedy recovery for the wounded.” He warned Wednesday night that the attack was “another manifestation that the anti-Semitism in Europe is increasing.”
“I urge the German authorities to continue to act resolutely against the phenomenon of anti-Semitism,” he said.
That message was repeated by most Israeli political leaders as well, including President Reuven Rivlin, who spoke Thursday at a memorial ceremony on Mount Herzl for the soldiers who fell in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
“I would like to express deep shock at the horrendous murder last night, in the midst of the holiest day for Jews worldwide,” he said. “I call on the leaders of Germany to bring the full force of law against anti-Semitism and its results.”
Israel’s U.N. ambassador, Danny Danon, called on the international community to “declare war on anti-Semitism and to act with determination to halt the epidemic of hate against world Jewry.”
“Jews don’t need to look behind them and to fear for their lives during prayer services,” he said.
The president of the European Jewish Congress, Dr. Moshe Cantor, said “that Jews observing one of the holiest days of the year were targeted for death should send shock waves in Germany and beyond.”
“We need to do more to guarantee these types of attacks do not happen again, by combating radicalization, creating tougher law enforcement measures and putting more resources into educating towards tolerance,” he said.
After the attack, the synagogue members were taken to a local hospital, where they conducted the final holiday prayers and blew the shofar that marked the end of the fast. The police then took them by bus to a guarded site. Israel’s Channel 11 News showed the survivors singing and dancing with joy on the way.
Authorities believe that this was a “lone wolf” attack. The 27-year-old German perpetrator tried to enter the synagogue, in which some 60 people were praying, but was apparently stopped by the security measures in place at the site.
Wearing a head-camera, he can be heard saying “Jews are at the root of all problems,” just before he went on the attack, which he broadcast live.
When he couldn’t get into the synagogue, the suspect shot and killed a woman in the street and a man in a nearby kebab shop, injuring two other people. The police eventually caught him after a gun battle in which he was injured.