Denmark chief rabbi ‘disappointed’ by PM’s call for immigration
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Denmark chief rabbi ‘disappointed’ by PM’s call for immigration

Yair Melchior says ‘if the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a deserted island’

A Danish police officer stands outside the synagogue where a gunman opened fire in Copenhagen, Denmark, on February 15, 2015. (photo credit: AP/Michael Probst)
A Danish police officer stands outside the synagogue where a gunman opened fire in Copenhagen, Denmark, on February 15, 2015. (photo credit: AP/Michael Probst)

Denmark’s chief rabbi on Sunday said he was “disappointed” by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s call for “massive immigration” of European Jews to Israel in the wake of a shooting outside the Copenhagen synagogue.

Synagogue guard Dan Uzan, in his late 30s, was killed after a gunman opened fire late Saturday night, prompting Netanyahu to condemn the attack and appeal to Jews to move to Israel.

The suspect on Sunday was identified in several Danish media outlets as Omar El-Hussein. Ekstra-Bladet, a Danish tabloid, reported that the 22-year-old, Danish-born man was released from jail only two weeks ago after serving a term for aggravated assault.

Rabbi Yair Melchior said in response to Netanyahu: “People from Denmark move to Israel because they love Israel, because of Zionism. But not because of terrorism.”

Copenhagen Jewish community guard Dan Uzan, killed in a February 15 terrorist attack (screen capture: Channel 2)
Copenhagen Jewish community guard Dan Uzan, killed in a February 15 terrorist attack (screen capture: Channel 2)

“If the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a deserted island,” Melchior said.

Earlier, Netanyahu said at the start of a cabinet meeting that the “wave of attacks is expected to continue.

“Jews deserve security in every country, but we say to our Jewish brothers and sisters, Israel is your home,” he said.

The Israeli cabinet approved a $46-million plan Sunday to encourage Jewish immigration from France, Belgium and Ukraine, countries where large numbers of Jews have expressed interest in moving to Israel.

The plan aims to bring about a “significant increase” in the number of immigrants by boosting Hebrew studies, holding immigration fairs, and posting more immigration officials in those countries, according to a government statement.

Melchior said Uzan was guarding a celebration at a Jewish community building near the synagogue when he was shot dead, and was “irreplaceable.”

“He was a person who was always willing to help. An amazing, amazing guy,” said Melchior, speaking from Israel’s Ben Gurion Airport before boarding a return flight to Copenhagen.

There are an estimated 6,000 to 7,000 Jews in Denmark, including about 2,000 active members of the Jewish community, which operates its own security patrol that coordinates with police to protect Jewish institutions.

The community had previously asked police for enhanced security, and following last month’s attack on a kosher supermarket in Paris, Denmark police began reevaluating security arrangements, Melchior said.

After an earlier shooting attack at a free-speech event in the city, police beefed up security at the Jewish community building where the event was being held, Melchior said. The gunman who killed Uzan in the attack just after midnight on Sunday also shot and wounded two police officers outside the synagogue.

Uzan’s family is active in Copenhagen’s Jewish community, Melchior said, and Uzan attended Jewish school and joined the community’s security efforts from a young age. The slain guard was a talented basketball player, received a degree in politics, lived in Israel for a while and learned to speak Hebrew fluently, Melchior said.

Uzan wanted younger community members to replace him in the security detail, Melchior said, but the community pressed him to remain at his post.

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