Barcelona Jews reject their rabbi’s predictions of doom after attack
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'It is time for solidarity and social commitment. Not for sensationalist headlines'

Barcelona Jews reject their rabbi’s predictions of doom after attack

We are a vibrant community and we will not leave our city, says spokesman after Chief Rabbi Meir Bar-Hen warns they have no future

Barcelona Jewish Community Spokesperson Victor Sorrenssen ( Screen Capture/ YouTube)
Barcelona Jewish Community Spokesperson Victor Sorrenssen ( Screen Capture/ YouTube)

A spokesman for the Barcelona Jewish Community on Friday rejected predictions of doom from the local chief rabbi, vowing that the city’s Jews would not abandon the city in the wake of the deadly attack by Islamic terrorists.

“Barcelona is a city where Jews have been living for one hundred years and of which they are proud. We Jews will not leave our city,” spokesman Victor Sorenssen said in an email to the Times of Israel.

His comments came after the Barcelona Chief Rabbi Meir Bar-Hen said he believes the Jewish community in Barcelona is “doomed,” because authorities in Spain do not want to confront radical Islam.

Without mentioning Bar-Hen by name, Sorenssen said that the Jews of Barcelona had a vibrant past and a positive future and are an integral part of multi-cultural Barcelona.

“Since 1977, with the arrival of democracy, the Jewish community has played an active role in the social fabric of Barcelona. The Jewish community participates actively in social, cultural and religious life of the society and has relation with the institutions of the city, of Catalonia and Spain,” he said, noting that next year the community will celebrate it’s centenary after being reformed following the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492.

“In these hundred years, Jews from all over the world have been an active part of this reconstruction,” said Sorenssen, who wrote that he had been asked to speak out on behalf of the “crisis committee of the Jewish community” in response to the terror attack. “We are living a revival of Jewish culture.”

People stand next to flowers, candles and other items set up on the Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona as they pay tribute to the victims of the Barcelona attack on August 18, 2017. (AFP/PASCAL GUYOT)
People stand next to flowers, candles and other items set up on the Las Ramblas boulevard in Barcelona as they pay tribute to the victims of the Barcelona attack on August 18, 2017. (AFP/PASCAL GUYOT)

Sorenssen said the terror attack would not change the Jewish community’s commitment to the city.

“The scourge of terrorism has shaken our city with force, as it has done in other European cities. We live moments of sadness, very difficult moments. In these moments of distress the Jewish community cries and prays for the victims. And more. Our community has offered help to the authorities for whatever they may need,” he said.

“Terrorism, with its vile mechanisms of fear, will not be able to defeat us. Barcelona is not afraid, its Jews join them it this stance. This cowardly attack will make us stronger. It is time for solidarity and social commitment. Not for sensationalist headlines,” Sorenssen added.

In an interview with JTA published earlier Friday, Rabbi Bar-Hen had stressed that he was speaking as a private person and not for all members of his community. Nevertheless he said he had urged his congregation to leave what he called a “hub of Islamist terror for all of Europe” for years before the attacks Thursday and Friday.

“Jews are not here permanently,” Bar-Hen said of the city and region. “I tell my congregants: Don’t think we’re here for good. And I encourage them to buy property in Israel. This place is lost. Don’t repeat the mistake of Algerian Jews, of Venezuelan Jews. Better [get out] early than late.”

Barcelona chief Rabbi Meir Bar Hen. (Screen capture YouTube.com)
Barcelona chief Rabbi Meir Bar Hen. (Screen capture YouTube.com)

A white van on Thursday careered into crowds on Las Ramblas, Barcelona’s feted thoroughfare, when the street was packed with locals and tourists. More than 100 were injured, and 14 people killed. The driver of the van fled on foot and was believed to be still at large on Friday. Police shot dead another man at a checkpoint Thursday. The Islamic State terrorist group claimed responsibility for that attack.

Hours later, police killed in a raid in Cambrils five men whom police said were terrorists planning an imminent attack.

People leave the Plaza de Catalunya after observing a minute of silence for the victims of the Barcelona attack on August 18, 2017, a day after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing 13 persons and injuring over 100 on the Rambla in Barcelona.o / AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE
People leave the Plaza de Catalunya after observing a minute of silence for the victims of the Barcelona attack on August 18, 2017, a day after a van ploughed into the crowd, killing 13 persons and injuring over 100 on the Rambla in Barcelona.o / AFP PHOTO / LLUIS GENE

Part of the problem exposed by the attacks, Bar-Hen said, is the presence of a large Muslim community with “radical fringes.” Once these people are “living among you,” he said of terrorists and their supporters, “it’s very difficult to get rid of them. They only get stronger.” He also said this applied to Europe as a whole. “Europe is lost,” he said.

The Barcelona community on Friday resumed activities that it had suspended briefly following the terror attack.

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