MOSCOW, Russia — After an antisemitic riot at a Russian airport, some members of Moscow’s Jewish community said Monday that they were dejected but unsurprised because of the global tensions from the Israel-Hamas conflict.
Under an icy rain outside the Moscow Choral Synagogue on Monday, 23-year-old Shulamit, a teacher at a Jewish school, said Sunday’s rioters were “people who do not know or understand much.”
“Many people try to sow hatred and animosity within Russian society. The most important thing is that we do not give in to that and that we stay human,” she added.
“It was very unpleasant, painful, we do not want these kinds of provocations, we do not want these people who do not know much being manipulated to do bad things.”
Behind her, a Russian police vehicle guarding the synagogue could be seen and groups of children attending the Jewish school came and went with their teachers.
Russian police said they had arrested 60 people suspected of violently storming Makhachkala airport on Sunday, seeking to attack Jewish passengers coming from Israel.
Dozens of rioters charged onto the runway and four police officers were injured while attempting to restore order.
The crowd of men were trying to surround a plane that had landed from Tel Aviv on its way to Moscow, looking for Jews.
The Israeli Ambassador to Moscow, Alexander Ben Zvi, told the RTVI news outlet that no passengers on the flight, which included Israelis, Russians and people with dual citizenship, were hurt.
The attack came as the Kremlin has regularly prided itself on ensuring tolerance between Russia’s many ethnic groups and religions.
In a park opposite the synagogue, Josef, a 35-year-old teacher wearing a kippa, said the attack was “frightening.”
Russia has a population of around 20 million Muslims and 150,000 Jews.
The Kremlin on Monday blamed “external interference” for the attack, with Russian foreign affairs spokeswoman Maria Zakharova saying Ukraine had played a “direct and key role” in what happened.
The governor of Dagestan in the North Caucasus, the predominantly Muslim region where the attack took place, blamed a Telegram channel that he said was managed from Ukraine for inciting the riot.
Ukraine rejected Russian accusations that it orchestrated the mob, saying Moscow was trying to “shift responsibility” and that antisemitism in Russia was “deep-rooted.”
“Accusing Ukraine of involvement in the events in Dagestan by the Russian foreign ministry is an attempt to shift responsibility from a sick person to a healthy one,” Kyiv’s foreign ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said on Facebook. “The events in Makhachkala reflect deep-rooted antisemitism of Russian elites and society.”
Ukraine’s ambassador to Israel also rejected Russia’s accusations, while charging Russian security security forces were behind the riot.
The incident at the airport was one of several recent ones in the North Caucasus, including a reported arson attack on a Jewish center in the city of Nalchik also on Sunday.
The Jewish cultural center in Nalchik, Dagestan, Russia has been set on fire
Putin’s anti-Israel propaganda has riled emotions among the Muslim community in the region. pic.twitter.com/vqsL5kfmwd
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) October 29, 2023
The director of the Moscow Choral Synagogue, Ariel Razbegayev, 37, said he just wanted “peace” between different religious communities inside Russia.
“Political events should not set fire to our common home,” he said.
But he said he was not surprised, saying it “could have been expected.”