JTA — Belgium is planning to stop providing soldiers for security around synagogues in Antwerp.
The plan, which has not been finalized, would end the army’s protection in the city’s Jewish neighborhood in September. The redeployment is connected to budgetary and manpower shortfalls in Belgium, where COVID-19 has severely impacted the economy and claimed more than 9,000 lives.
“The Jewish community needs more, not less, protection in these difficult times,” the Forum of Jewish Organizations of Flemish Jews wrote in a statement published Monday about the plan.
Belgian troops were first posted to guard Jewish institutions in Antwerp in May 2014 after an Islamist murdered four people in a terrorist shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels, located about 40 miles south of Antwerp.
Antwerp has about 100 Jewish institutions servicing a predominantly ultra-Orthodox population of 18,000 people.
In 2018, an unidentified man was filmed stealing mezuzahs from the door frames of 20 Antwerp homes days after a Jewish man and his son narrowly escaped being rammed by a passing vehicle that swerved in their direction onto the pavement while they were walking to synagogue on Shabbat. Police said there was no indication the incident was a hate crime.
In 2017, police apprehended and briefly detained a man who allegedly assaulted a ultra-Orthodox Jewish man on the street in Antwerp while shouting “Jew.”