Jewish community in Brussels cancels Purim events after terrorist attacks

The Jewish community of Brussels had prepared two major events for this week on the occasion of the Purim holiday celebrations but both events have been cancelled following the March 22 terror attacks in Brussels.

Purim in 2016 is on March 24, though as with all Jewish holidays, the event begins on the evening prior.

“There are grave concerns among Belgium’s Jews following the terrorist attacks that targeted Brussels’ airport and a metro station in the Belgian capital on Tuesday killing more than 30 people and injuring 230, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Director of the European Jewish Association (EJA) and head of the Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE), said according to a report by the European Jewish Press.

“The Jewish community here in Brussels and in Europe in general is not surprised,” he said.“We’ve been receiving alerts for a long time now. Despite the shock the city experienced, we were not surprised. Of course, we feel the concern and the pressure, but we were really not surprised by everything that’s going on in the city. It was only a matter of time before such an attack happened.’’

“We always knew about warnings, we knew where we were living. We hope that this wave will end as soon as possible so that it won’t harm the Purim holiday,” he said.

However he said that the impact will nevertheless be felt on the holiday. ‘’The government has raised preparedness to the highest level, that means an automatic cancellation of all public events – there are a lot of Jews here.”

Looking forward to the future amid expectations of increased aliyah or immigration to Israel among Belgian Jews, Rabbi Margolin said, “this is not an easy situation, you can’t run from terror and it can strike any place.”

“The metro station where the bombing occurred is several hundred metres from my office. I call on all Jews who need to fly or travel, to pay attention to the instructions of the police and to wait,” he added.

The authorities have requested everyone in the city to stay home over the next few days.
“We evacuated family by family from the Jewish school,” Rabbi Margolin explained as he described the day. “We feared additional attacks and contacted the families. To avoid panic, we asked that they take the children one at a time. Since then, all the families are at home. We obey the instructions from the security services.”

He has no doubt there are additional terror cells still lurking around Brussels. “The fact that the terrorist from Brussels was able to hide in the city for several months means there was someone helping him, which is why I believe these were not the last attacks we’ll be seeing here. The routine right now is difficult. There’s a feeling of insecurity.’’

He said he did not believe the motive for the new attacks had been anti-Semitic. “The attacks were not directed at Jews but against all the citizens of Europe who are getting used to a new reality,” he said, adding, “God is guarding us and we’re doing everything in our power to make sure that all the Jews in our community are safe.”

Jewish schools and institutions in both Brussels and Antwerp have been shut down.

The European Jewish Congress (EJC) expressed shock and revulsion at the attacks in Brussels.

“This is yet another shocking, appalling and deadly attack on innocent Europeans by terrorists,” Dr. Moshe Kantor, President of the EJC, said. “These attacks on an airport, train system and outside European Union institutions are shots at the heart of Europe. Our prayers and thoughts are with the Belgian people at these difficult times.”

“These are attacks against all that we stand for. All Europeans, regardless of background must stand together and expel this terror and intolerance from our midst.”

The blasts come four days after Belgian police arrested a key suspect in the November 2015 attacks in Paris.
“We can no longer ignore the fact that radical Islamists are at war with Europe and all Europeans and we call on our governments and law enforcement agencies to act accordingly,” Dr. Kantor said. “We have been exposed for too long and now we must strike back at the terrorist infrastructure including those who support it economically, and those who inspire and provide it legitimacy.”

(Photo: (c) Clive Leviev-Sawyer)



The Sofia Globe staff

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