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September 22, 2014 / 27 Elul, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Belgium’

2000 Mourn Brussels Victims at Silent Vigil

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

BRUSSELS (JTA) — A crowd of approximately 2,000 gathered for a silent vigil in front of the Jewish museum in Brussels where an unidentified shooter killed four people.

The gathering on Sunday came 24 hours after the shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in the center of the country’s capital.

Prime Minister Elio di Rupo was among the Belgian politicians who cleared time to attend the vigil on Election Day.

“Elections are usually a celebration for democracy, but this year that celebration is in the shadow by this terrorist attack,” he said later that day at a news conference. “My thoughts go out to the Jewish community and their families.”

At the vigil, many lit candles in memory of the four victims and placed flowers and Israeli and Belgian flags at the museum’s entrance. Two of the victims were an Israeli couple on vacation. Emanuel and Miriam Riva of Tel Aviv, both in their 50s, were shot in the head and died instantly, as did Dominique Chabrier, a French volunteer at the museum.

A fourth fatality was identified as Alexandre Strens, a museum employee in his 20s. Strens died in the hospital hours after he was shot. “It is good to hear the Belgian politicians sharing their outrage at this Saturday’s attack,” said Robin Sclafani, director of CEJI, a Jewish Brussels-based not-for-profit which promotes tolerance through education. ”I hope they can finally hear the alarm this time for what is a wake-up call that has been snoozed too many times already.”

Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association, or EJA, called on European governments to set up a pan-European task force to fight anti-Semitism.

“Condemnation after a predictable attack is nothing but a way to cleanse one’s conscious” unless it is accompanied by concrete actions, he said.

Also Sunday, police released security camera footage of the perpetrator entering the museum with an automatic assault rifle and asked for the public’s help in locating him and other accomplices, including a driver who drove him to the museum in an Audi.

Neo-Nazi Parties Win Seats in 2 European Parliament Elections

Monday, May 26th, 2014

For the first time ever, neo-Nazi political parties have won seats in the Brussels-based European Parliament, according to the latest exit polls. The election took place yesterday (Sunday, May 25), just a day after three Jews were murdered and a fourth person seriously wounded in a terror attack at the city’s Jewish Museum.

Is it a surprise that one of the parties was located in Germany? But a second country also voted in neo-Nazis as well — and not so far from Israel, either.

The neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NDP) won one MEP (Member of the European Parliament) seat in yesterday’s European Union (EU) elections, coming in fourth with one percent of the vote in German polls. In the 1930s, Germany’s Nazi party was officially named the ‘National Socialists.’

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s pro-EU Christian Democratic Union party won 36 percent of Germany’s vote, followed by the Social Democrats, a center-left coalition partner with 27.5 percent. But in third place was the new “Alternative for Germany” with 6.5 percent of the nation’s vote, according to The Daily Mail. And the anti-EU AfD party was reported to have won as many as six MEPs; the party has advocated for ending the country’s use of the euro as currency.

However, Germany was not the only country that flipped to the right, by a long shot.

In Greece, for the first time the extreme-right neo-Nazi ‘Golden Dawn’ party won three seats, coming in third with nine percent of the vote. The anti-EU Syriza party also took the lion’s share of the vote, with 27 percent, an ominous sign, analysts said.

“Euroscepticism,” – a relatively new term – is criticism of the European Union and opposition to the process of political European integration – belief that integration weakens the nation state – and this trend ruled the elections on Sunday, as The Daily Mail pointed out.

In Italy, the anti-EU “Five Star” (M5S) movement, headed by ex-comedian Beppe Grillo, appeared to be headed for a close second place with 25 to 28 percent of the vote. First place was just a shave ahead by Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi’s center left Democratic Party (PD) with 29.5 to 32.5 percent of the vote.

In France, Marine Le Pen made headline when her hardline French National Front party proved the most popular with a quarter of the vote, 11 percent ahead of the ruling Socialists. Le Pen called for new elections in France and labeled the EU Public Enemy Number One, saying it is “like the old Soviet Union – it can’t be improved.” In fact, President Francoise Hollande’s party came in third with 14.7 percent of the vote, following the center-right UMP, which garnered 20.3 percent.

In Sweden, the Feminist Initiative Party also won seats in the European Parliament for the first time, with around seven percent of the vote. However, so did far-right Sweden Democrats.

In Belgium, where election coverage competed with coverage of the terror attack at the Brussels Jewish Museum, Flemish separatists were the big winners in the parliamentary elections there. But it will be months before a new government is formed.

The center-right New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) has a third of the votes in Flanders, where 60 percent of Belgian residents live and where Dutch is spoken – this, after 80 percent of the votes are counted. N-VA leader Bart De Wever said he believes the king will grant him the right to attempt to form a coalition, but it will mean finding potential French-speaking allies. Due to the Belgian system, there are effectively two elections, each with at least parties in two languages – French and Dutch. At least two from each side will be needed to form a coalition.

Updated: 3 Killed in Brussels Jewish Museum Shooting

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

Two men and a woman were killed in a shooting at the Brussels Jewish Museum on Saturday morning. A fourth person who was seriously injured is in the hospital.

Twelve people were treated for shock.

Belgium’s interior minister told Belgian TV that the attack might be anti-Semitic.

Witnesses say the attack was done by a single shooter.

Belgium media is reporting that a suspect has been arrested, and police are looking for a second suspect.

42,000 Jews live in Brussels.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said that the attack was the result of the unending incitement against Jews and the state of Israel, in Europe.

Belgian Group Mulls Legal Action over Anti-Semitic Twitter Joke

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

A Belgian watchdog on anti-Semitism warned it was preparing to take legal action against online propagators of a new anti-Semitic joke about the Holocaust.

The Belgian League against Anti-Semitism, or LBCA, issued the threat regarding a photograph of an oven with paper money inside, bearing the caption, “The Jew trap is set.”

The photo surfaced earlier this month. One of its early disseminators was a Twitter user from Belgium using the handle Simree Dikule. The picture was re-tweeted by thousands of additional users and also posted on Facebook by a student of the Bracops Lambert high school near Brussels, the La Capitale daily reported Tuesday. The student, who was identified only as “M.,” wrote on Facebook: “It’s racist, but it’s funny.”

“This disgusting and unacceptable new joke has a double insult,” said LBCA President Joel Rubinfeld. “It alludes to the anti-Semitic stereotype that Jews are greedy and to the crematoria that Nazis used to burn Jews during the Holocaust.”

The tweet and the Facebook post have been removed, though it is unclear whether the users or the companies removed them.

Last year, a French court forced the California-based Twitter social network to divulge information on users who had disseminated anti-Semitic jokes. Twitter was sued by the UEJF French Jewish student union after the hashtags #unbonjuif (“a good Jew”) and #unjuifmort (“a dead Jew”) became hugely popular because they were used in what Le Monde termed “a competition of anti-Semitic jokes.”

Twitter argued that, as an American company, it adhered to U.S. laws on hate speech, which are far more liberal than those of France and many other European countries.

But the French court ruled that the French blogosphere and online interaction between French residents constituted French public space, where French legislation against hate speech applies.

Jew Beaten in Antwerp on Way to Shul

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

On Shabbat morning, a Jewish man in Antwerp, Belgium, on his way to synagogue was beaten by a Moslem.

The Moslem began to beat the man as he was walking down the street. The man ran into the synagogue, where the Moslem followed him. The man managed to lock the Moslem in the women’s section, and held him there until the police arrived.

The man was taken to the hospital.

Knife-Wielding Man Arrested at Israeli Embassy in Brussels

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

Belgian police have arrested a man whom they suspect of planning an attack against Israeli diplomats in Brussels.

The police department of Uccle, the Brussels suburb where the Israeli embassy is located, confirmed on Tuesday the Oct. 17 arrest of one man who is thought to have tried to enter the embassy while carrying a concealed knife.

Security personnel from the embassy handed over the suspect to local police after discovering the knife in a security check. The suspect was not named, but the French-language Jewish news site lemondejuif.info reported he had converted to Islam.

He was placed in a psychiatric institution for observation after displaying erratic behavior while in custody.

A second man, an Iranian national who also was not named, was detained by police later that day on suspicion that he gathered intelligence on the embassy. He was released shortly after police officers detained him, RTL reported. Police said there was no evidence linking the Iranian to the man who allegedly tried to conceal the knife.

Walking Up 45 Flights On Shabbat: Being a Jew in Hong Kong

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Last summer I went to Hong Kong for three months – for me that’s home. Although I was born in Belgium and lived in Lexington, Massachusetts while in high school, Hong Kong is my home base.  Now Hong Kong may seem exotic to you, but when it comes to observing kashrut and keeping Shabbat after a climb to the 45th floor, it becomes more difficult than exotic. My parents live there for business, along with my married sister and British brother-in-law. (We accepted him into the family because he made us seem more international.)

I was raised in a very traditional and cultural Jewish home in Asia. My parents were proud Israelis who made sure that we always had a connection to the Land of Israel and to being Jews no matter where we lived. While others may have had their Bar/Bat Mitzvah at the Western Wall, we merged these two cultures with our Bar/Bat Mitzvah celebrations at the Great Wall of China.  My twin brother Orrel and me had our first exposure to Torah observant Judaism at Lexington High School, where the OU’s Jewish Student Union offered free pizza on Monday afternoons.  (Jewish Student Union is a program that enhances Jewish culture at public high schools.)

Initially, Orrel and I were attending for two slices of pizza a week; but eventually, we became interested and started attending NCSY Shabbatons in our senior year. As a result, we spent a year learning in Eretz Yisrael. We now attend Yeshiva University; Orrel is at Yeshiva College and I am at Stern College. As upcoming seniors, we cannot wait for another amazing year!

Since we became shomer Shabbat, we had not been home to Hong Kong for more than a few days at a time and during those occasions, I always had my brother with me for support. This all changed in the summer of 2012 when I had to be in Hong Kong for personal reasons, while my brother was in Israel learning in yeshiva and doing medical research.  I felt that I was being left to fend for myself in Hong Kong.

On one hand, I was really excited to be with my family, but on the other hand I was scared. I was scared because since I became religious I had been immersed in Jewish communities – at seminary in Israel then in Stern College.  In addition, I had a strong support comprised of New England NCSY rabbis and my seminary Aim Bayit to answer my questions and to further my growth as a Torah observant Jew. When acquaintances from high school were placing bets on how long I would stay “religious” after NCSY, my support group was instrumental in keeping me on the “derech.”

In Hong Kong, I was entering three months in which my only social chevra would be myself. My connection to my Judaism would be up to me, and I feared I would lose everything that I had worked so hard to build in the past two years. This was not a dramatic exaggeration but a heartfelt declaration.

Within the first weeks, I felt myself losing my desire to daven and to learn Torah.  Recorded shiurim that used to excite me seemed no longer applicable to the struggles I was facing. I remember calling a friend from Stern College and telling her, “There is no way I am coming out religious after this summer.” But through phone calls of guidance from my support groups in America and in Israel, I slowly learned that the key to surviving the summer would not be the growth I had planned for myself; I had to modify my plans.

Initially, I had strongly believed that just as my twin brother was growing every day in Israel, I had to be growing and firming my roots as an Orthodox Jew.  Instead, I had to learn to tread water in order not to drown. I couldn’t simply focus on listening to shiurim; instead my focus had to be just making it day-by-day. For example, I would try and have one meaningful davening – Shacharit or Minchah  - in Hong Kong. I couldn’t hold myself to the high religious standards that I had set for myself at Stern.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/teens-twenties/walking-up-45-flights-on-shabbat-being-an-orthodox-jew-in-hong-kong/2013/08/30/

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