The lead story in today’s Times of Israel carried the self-explanatory title “Facing death chants and hate crimes, Sweden’s Jews live in a climate of fear,” to which I would like to add my first hand account of daily life in Sweden.
My father Rabbi Dr. Leonard Book was the Rabbi in Malmö, Sweden for eight years, before making Aliyah. I vividly recall a few years ago a disturbing visit with my family to spent Rosh Hashanah with my parents. We felt like we were back in Europe of the 1930s only this time the Jews were not in fear of the European fascist mobs, but rather of militant Islamic fundamentalist inspired violence.
Malmö Synagogue. ©, Tuvia Book, 2015
Before the holidays, concrete blocks were placed by the municipality in front of the Jewish Community building, bulletproof windows were installed in the synagogue, an armoured police presence was established, the worshipers were told not to congregate in front of the synagogue and a host of other security measures were taken.
Jews told me they were fearful of walking around the city displaying any Jewish symbols (such as a Kippah or Jewish themed Jewelry) due to frequent verbal abuse and threats by Arabs. Everywhere Jews go; to the Jewish kindergarten, to youth movement meetings, to synagogue services they had to be escorted in groups with guards. One could sum up the atmosphere with one word; there was a palpable sense of “FEAR.” I myself was walking down the main street in Malmö wearing my Kippah when some Muslim youths shouted at me “Itbach al Yahud” (“slaughter the Jews” in Arabic).
Now if this was the 1930’s, when there was “no where to run and nowhere to hide” I could understand, but today there is a place to raise ones Jewish children with dignity and without fear. There is a place where one can stand proud and tall and declare “Jag är en Judisk” (I am a Jew). That place is,
The hope of two thousand years, the land of Zion.”