Almost four months after a shooting attack that left four people dead, the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels reopened its doors on Sunday with upgraded security and a greater awareness of the risks its staff faces.
Last May, a terrorist from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) murdered four people at the Jewish Museum in Brussels.
To contend with the possibility of future such attacks, the museum has upgraded its security measures. Two armed police officers are now stationed at the site, and security checks at the entrance are to be tightened. Visitors will have to pass through newly-installed metal detectors.
The city of Brussels dedicated 30,000 euros ($39,000) to finance the measures.
“We had a certain innocence about us before. It’s not that we took things lightly, but we hadn’t considered the risks, that we could be a possible target of this kind of attack,’’ said Chouna Lomponda, responsible for the communication at the museum.
The museum, a 19th Century town house in the fashionable Sablon area of Brussels, shut down after the attack.
Sunday’s reopening coincided with the 15th European Day of Jewish Culture. It took place during an official event attended by several political, cultural, diplomatic and religious personalities, including Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo.
“We don’t want to serve the interests of extremists who want to muffle our culture,” said Philippe Blondin, the museum director. “We wanted to reopen our doors as soon as possible, but the Belgian authorities had to do their investigation work,” he said.
A memorial plaque bearing the names of the 4 victims of the attack – a couple of Israeli tourists from Tel Aviv, Emmanuel Riva, 54, and Myriam Riva, 53, as well as a French volunteer, Dominique Sabrier, 66, and a museum employee Alexandre Strens, 25 – has been affixed to the building.
“We have lots of exhibitions planned for the future,” says the museum’s president, Philippe Blondin.”Of course, it will be different now. We carry the burden and weight of this event and this wound will stay with us. It will not be destroyed with time. But we carry on.”
The museum staff are determined it will be business as usual – or at least as close to usual as it can be.
“We are continuing our educational work,” says Norbert Cige, the museum’s general secretary. “Those who tried to silence us: well, that objective has failed.”