A violent attack on a Rabbi in Berlin is raising concerns here in Israel that Germany's Jews, just a little more than 65 years after the Holocaust, are once again falling victim to Anti-Semitic attacks. But this time the suspected criminals were not Neo-Nazis, they were young Germans of Arab descent. 53 year old Rabbi Daniel Alter was walking with his young daughter when he says a group of 4 Arabs asked him if he was Jewish. After he said yes, they began to punch him repeatedly in the face and threatened to kill his daughter. The attackers fled the scene leaving Rabbi Alter brusied and bloody -- he was rushed to the hospital and immediately operate on.
The suspected Arab culprits are still on the run. The vicious attack on Rabbi Alter sent shockwaves through the German Jewish community and revived debate about just how Jewish one should look in public. Not that that mattered in the assault on Rabbi Alter -- he had covered up his yarmulke by wearing a baseball cap. Nonetheless one prominent German reform rabbi suggested Jews continue to cover their religious skull caps to avoid provoking attacks.
But the President of Germany's Jewish community, Dr. Deiter Graumann, said he would not permit Judaism to only be practiced behind closed doors. That's the Israeli government's position as well... The mayor of Berlin is also against Jews being, so to speak, in the closet, saying it must be safe for them to wear a yarmulke in public. That's exactly what he and other high-profile Germans did to show their solidarity with Jews over the weekend. In a flashmob event, Germans wore the religious skull caps alongside Jews to take a stand against Anti-Semitism. Other rallies drew in the capital drew an estimated 1,000 germans to the streets...
The head of the Council of Muslims condemned the attack on Rabbi Alter, saying such acts cause deep disgust. But Jewish leaders are urging Muslim leaders to do more than talk after an attack - they want concrete action taken to root out anti-semitism in the Muslim community. They say Germany's 150,000 Jews are increasingly coming under verbal attacks from Muslims who often act out of hatred for Israel. Some Jewish leaders claim German officials pander to the 4 million strong Muslim community and fail to take the threats seriously enough.
Germany's Office for Criminal Investigation says there have been 436 anti-Semitic attacks this year. Most of the incidents have been property attacks such as swastika graffiti, or verbal abuse. More than a dozen have been physical attacks. The assault on Rabbi Alter comes at a time when Germany's Jews are already feeling under threat. They're fighting to reverse a law in Cologne that bans the practice of circumcision or brit mila. For Orthodox Jews, that is one of the most important religious obligations.
Jordana Miller, JN1, Tel Aviv.