Following the Barcelona terror attacks in which 14 people were killed and some 130 wounded, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) asked the Spanish city’s chief rabbi, Rabbi Meir Bar-Hen, what he thought of the future of Jews there.
Generally speaking, European Jewish leaders are extremely cautious, and would seldom, if ever, dare to call upon Jews of their respective countries to pack their belongings and move to Israel. The negative backlash to Netanyahu urging Jews to leave Europe following the January 2015 attack on a Jewish supermarket in Paris is still well remembered. “To all the Jews of France, all the Jews of Europe, I would like to say that Israel is not just the place in whose direction you pray; the State of Israel is your home,” said the Israeli leader at the time.
Netanyahu made a similar plea just a month later following the February 2015 attack outside a Copenhagen synagogue that left a Jewish security guard dead.
These calls to immigrate, which were made by other Israeli officials as well, were criticized by many European Jewish leaders. Rabbi Menachem Margolin, director of the European Jewish Association, argued that encouraging Jews to leave Europe “severely weakens and damages the Jewish communities that have the right to live securely wherever they are.” Chief Rabbi of Denmark, Yair Melchior, likewise criticized Israel by stating that “if the way we deal with terror is to run somewhere else, we should all run to a deserted island.”
The ISIS attack on Barcelona has elicited a similar reaction, but this time it’s not Israeli officials urging Jews to flee to their ancestral homeland. It’s coming from a prominent leader in the European Diaspora. Rabbi Bar-Hen firmly concluded that “Jews are not here permanently. I tell my congregants: Don’t think we’re here for good. And I encourage them to buy property in Israel. This place is lost … Europe is lost.”
Bar-Hen wasn’t referring only to the terror attack. He says that Spain is not only reluctant to confront Islamic terror, it fails to recognize the danger of Muslim fanaticism, as the case of Leila Khaled has clearly demonstrated. Khaled, a Palestinian terrorist convicted for hijacking airplanes in 1969 and 1970, was allowed to participate in the latest Barcelona “Revolution Means Life” book fair in May. Khaled was scheduled to speak at the launch of Sarah Irving’s book Leila Khaled: Icon of Palestinian Liberation.
This wasn’t an oversight by Barcelona’s municipality. Five months ago, the city, led by Mayor Ada Colau Ballano of the far-left en Comú party, issued a statement supporting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The city’s official declaration from last April states that the “Barcelona City Council puts an end to the complicity of the city of Barcelona in the flagrant, systematic human rights violations of the colonizing occupation and expansion of the State of Israel in Occupied Palestinian Territories, and recognizes the right to BDS.”
A city welcoming BDS and convicted terrorists is enough for Bar-Hen to reach the conclusion that European Jewish communities are doomed. But, as was always the case, most Jews are the last to recognize their own precarious situation. So it’s little surprise that we now hear Barcelona Jewish Community spokesman Victor Sorrenssen saying, “We Jews will not leave our city,” and that “we are living a revival of Jewish culture.”
One can only hope Sorrenssen is right. But if not, Jews at least have a safe haven waiting for them, something not available to the many Europeans who are currently supporting the very thing that threatens their way of life.
PHOTO: The Tel Aviv municipality building seen lit up to depict the Spanish flag, in solidarity with Spain, following today’s terror attack in Barcelona, where 13 people were killed and many more injured when a man drove his truck into a crowd of people. August 17, 2017. Photo by Miriam Alster/Flash90