The former president of Belgium’s Zionist association is planning to immigrate to Israel in the near future, and she says that many Belgian Jews are thinking of doing the same.
In an interview with the UK Telegraph, Betty Dan said the multiple attacks in Paris on November 13 that killed 130 people, and the subsequent revelation that a Brussels-led jihadist cell led the assault, and the murders last year at the Brussels Jewish museum — also by a jihadist — have triggered fears that Belgium and Europe in general, are not longer safe for Jews.
Dan, the manager of a Jewish radio station for 25 years, also organizes property fairs for Belgian Jews who leave for Israel. She said that following the Paris attacks, there’s been a sharp increase in the number of calls she gets from people seeking information on moving to Israel, from about once a week to five per day.
“A few years ago it was the pensioners going, who wanted the Israeli sun,” Dan told The Telegraph. “Now it is young people with children who sell their houses and leave everything. They are scared.”
“It is a painful thing. I am a real Belgian – my country, my culture and my friends are here,” she said, adding that her daughter and grandson will likely make the move with her.
“My daughter never, never, never thought to leave. Now, she says of her little boy, what is his future here? We don’t feel safe,” Dan said.
Besides Israel, she said, other friends are planning to head to the United States, Canada or London.
The Belgian Jewish community, some 45,000-strong, speaks of an alarmingly high rate of attacks against community members. Belgian officials recorded a 50 percent increase in reports on anti-Semitic attacks from last year, registered some 130 such incidents, a 10-year high.
The Paris attacks sent Brussels into a lockdown as it was revealed that the leaders of the attack were from the Belgian capital. Fearing similar attacks, the country declared its highest state of alert and synagogues remained closed as security forces launched raids in the search for suspects and accomplices.
“Jews are praying at home. Some of them are planning to leave,” Brussels’s Chief Rabbi Avraham Guigui, told Israeli radio at the time. “People realize there is no future for Jews in Europe.”
Guigui was criticized for that comment by the European Jewish Association.
Dan said the fear on the street is palpable. She said she hides her Star of David necklace and knows of some families who have moved their mezuzah from their front doors, for fear of attracting attention.
“I never thought I would have to hide a Jewish newspaper on the metro,” Dan told The Telegraph. “When my grandson comes out of the school, he knows to put his kippah in his pocket. He asks me, why do they hate us? I say, oh, it’s a long story.”
The head of the European Jewish Community Centre in Brussels told the newspaper that he is regularly sworn at, and threatened, along with his four children.
“I grew up in Argentina and experienced some anti-Semitism, but compared to what my children go through in Europe in 2015, it is incomparable,” said Rabbi Avi Tawil. His offices are in an unmarked building guarded by Belgian infrantrymen.
“We see people are targeted for being Jewish in the streets all the time,” he said.
Both Tawil and Dan told the Telegraph that the majority of incidents are perpetrated by young Arab men.
“If I count my own experience, the insults and violent actions seem to come from people who curse me with Allahu Akhbar, or some Arabic insult,” Tawil said.