Three years after the slaying of four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in what prosecutors say was a jihadist terrorist attack, the institution opened its first new exposition, whose theme is immigration.
The new exhibition, which opened last month and is titled “Belgium, Welcoming Land,” was inaugurated following renovations during which the museum was closed to the public for many months. Before closing for renovations, the museum had reopened briefly after the attack, for which a French national who fought in Syria, Mehdi Nemmouche, is currently standing trial.
The history of immigration to Belgium since its creation in 1830 is explored in the exhibition through photographs, testimonies and artifacts, the RTBF French-language broadcaster reported. The exhibition will remain open until March 19, which will be the 6th anniversary of the murder of four Jews in Toulouse by another Islamist.
Jewish community leaders, including Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the European Conference of rabbis, referred to the 2012 Toulouse attack, in which jihadist Mohammed Merah killed three children and a rabbi at a Jewish school, as the opening shot of a wave of shootings and other acts of violence by armed European Islamists that began with Jewish targets but has since broadened to include non-Jewish ones as well.
Both Merah and Nemmouche were born in Europe to families originating in the Middle East.
In the Brussels attack, the victims included two Israeli tourists, a worker of the Jewish museum and a volunteer. Pascale Falek-Alhadeff, the curator of the new exhibition, told RTBF that it was meant also to encourage the creation and opening in Belgium of a museum dedicated to immigration.
But it also underlines cultural commonalities among immigrants as a means for countering intolerance, she added.
“This exposition is a wakeup call, reminding us that in 2017, in view of recent events, it is more necessary than ever before to have such a museum,” she said. The problems connected to immigration “need to be treated through a historical consciousness, complemented by art,” she said.