He was subjected to threats and murder attempts in elementary school from other youths. Israel is close to his heart and he has a lot of sagacious things to tell. I have met Jonatan Dominque, one of many Jews in Sweden who intend to leave the country, because they are victims of the growing anti-Semitism in Europe.
Jonatan Dominique, with whom I arranged a meeting over Skype, is wearing a kippa and payot, when he appears on my screen. I ask him if he always walks around with a kippa and he answers yes. Jonatan lives in Sweden’s third largest city, Malmö. It is a city that has changed a lot over short time. While in recent years one third of the population has immigrated from outside Sweden to the city, another group of people is emigrating from it, the Jewish minority. The city is internationally infamous for its anti-Semitism. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, one of the most well known international Jewish human rights organisations, has urged Jews to extreme caution when visiting Malmö and southern Sweden.
I’ve read about Jonatan’s tough situation in various newspapers and reports on anti-Semitism. Jonatan himself contacted me a few weeks ago, as he wanted to convey greetings and support to the now famous Zionist Arab activist Mohammad Zoabi, who I previously interviewed here on my Times of Israel Blog. Mohammad Zoabi is an Israeli Arab Muslim, who stands up for Israel, and therefore he has received death threats. The two youths, Mohammad and Jonatan share, despite different backgrounds, the experience of being subjected to death threats coming from the same direction because they are what they are.
I ask Jonatan to tell me more about himself. He says he is 17 years old and he is in high school, where he studies Social Science Education. Jonatan says, however, that he really wants to be a soldier in the Israeli army. He hopes to pursue a career as an officer there. He gives the explanation why he wants to move.
-I am born and raised in Malmö but I really don’t feel at home here. I feel more at home in Israel. When I’m in my home, where I live it feels like home but the surrounding environment doesn’t feel like home. When you walk in the streets, without harming anyone, maybe you go for some shopping, you have eyes staring at you. It doesn’t have to be in a threatening way that they stare, it is more like they look at you as if you were something different, as if you weren’t a human. You always feel like you are stared at. They shout damn yahood (Arabic word for Jew) or fuck Israel and Sieg Heil and things like that. Sometimes it happens that they threat you.They may say that they want kill you or that they want to harm you.
Jonatan tells me about a specific incident that recently happened. A week before the interview he was with the rabbi of the Jewish congregation. Jonatan and the rabbi were standing outside the home of the rabbi. Close to his house there is a local pizzeria, were the Jew- haters seem to hang around.
– I was in a conversation with the rabbi. They noticed us and they started to shout damn yahoods and to spit in our direction.When I left the rabbi to go home they approached the rabbi and tried to hit him. So it is always a threatening situation. You always feel a bit uneasy.
Jonatan tells me that the haters have even tried to enter the Jewish congregation hall by lying that they wanted to pick up their kids, as there is also a kindergarten there ruined by the Jewish congregation. However they were stopped before they could reach the kids.
Jonatan has experienced a lot of bullying at school and sometimes it does not stop at stares and threats. One and a half year ago he was beaten up and he has also been a victim of an attempted murder. Students in his school had told a guy in a neighbouring school, that Jonatan is Jewish and that he should beat Jonatanup, because he is Jewish. In the 9th grade the murder attempt took place but the threats have been going on since the 7th grade.
I ask Jonatan Dominique if those who has expressed hatred against him and committed hate crimes against him because he is Jewish have something in common.
– It’s only people from the Middle East, he answers without hesitation.
So there has never been anyone that is linked to Neo-Nazism that has attacked you?
– Never, never, Jonatan assures me.
To me it is unbelievable to imagine what this guy has gone through, so I feel I need to know more about what really has happened to him. I ask him to tell me more about the death threats and the murder attempt.
– Every year we use to have a snowball fight. And we had it that year also. It was the winter of 2012-2013. I heard some guys, that were louder than the other ones. I saw that they stod on a bench to be more visible. They heiled and shouted “Heil Hitler” and “damn Jew”. First I was shocked. Why must they involve this when we are just having an ordinary snowball fight. I went back to school because I did not want any further problems.The day after we continued the snowball fight. I thought it was forgotten and that it wouldn’t reoccur. Now we can have a real snowball fight again, I thought.
But this time they used a megaphone through which they shouted ”damn Jew” and ”throw on the Jew”. So everybody from that school throw on me. My friends said to me that it was a boring snowball fight since nobody was throwing any snowballs on them. So I again had to go back to school.
The following week Jonatan was out walking in that area with a friend in the area where they had the snowball fight. Then suddenly a guy approached him. It turned out that this was the guy that had heiled and shouted in the megaphone. He went up to Jonatan and asked in a threatening way: ”Why do you talk shit about my country?” Jonatan did not understand what the guy referred to, because he had not said a thing. Then the guy claimed that Jonatan had said ”fuck Palestine”. But Jonatan explains that he had not said a word to the guy. Now the murder attempt began. Jonatan continues to tell this horrible story to me:
– He began to throw snowballs on me. I thought that as long as it is only snowballs I do not need to do anything. But then he starts to put stones in the snow balls and throws them on me. So my friend that was with me told me to run away from there. So I did. I turned around and saw that he was running after me. I did not reach enough speed so he caught me up. He threw me to the ground and hit my head. And then he started to throw stones on me, when I was lying on the ground.
I cannot help being moved about what Jonatan tells me. I am stunned and I wonder how can this be allowed to happen? Even though Jonatan says, he has had his friends, that have been a support for him, I can understand how tough his situation has been and still is. Just because he is Jewish. What has gone wrong with Sweden? Has Sweden become a racist country? I ask Jonatan the same question. He thinks for a while, then he goes on explaining.
-We are a multi-cultural country. We have people from different cultures living here. I don’t think Sweden is a racist country but there are deficiencies when it comes to handle racism within the population. It is obvious when it comes to anti-Semitism. It seems like people have not dealt with the problem seriously. People say that it is boyish pranks, that it is normal bullying and not hate crimes.
They should visit schools and talk about, that in some countries they urge you to hate Jews but in Sweden there is a democracy and everyone has the right to live as he or she desires. To say that here we have freedom of religion, freedom of speech. It is important that you teach those who immigrate here directly when they arrive and to say to them that you can think what you want to think but you cannot be racist nor discriminate against somebody.
Since he brings up the lack of information at school I ask him if somebody has been to his school to talk about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust?
– We had a visit from a survivor of the Holocaust, who I had arranged it with, just a few weeks before the semester ended. But she only spoke in my class because there is a denier of the Holocaust in the class. He has said, that Auschwitz was not a death camp but a bakery and that is why there was smoke coming out of the chimneys. I told this to my teacher and she spoke to him and returned to me informing me, that he felt regretful. He had also told her, that he had had said what he said because I had talked about politics in the class room and such politics that he doesn’t like, that means all such politics that is against the Social Democrats that is wrong according to him. If you are not a Social Democrat you are a Nazi according to him.
Since he brought up Israel before in his conversation I want to ask him more about his views on Israel and how he view the future for the Jewish people in Malmö, the rest of Europe and Israel.
-Israel is in fact my homeland since I am a Jew. That is what is home. Israel is close to my heart.
He goes on explaining that when it comes to Judea and Samaria it should all belong to Israel, every square centimetre of it. The area has historical connection to the Jewish people and there the holy Jewish city Hebron is located. He explains.
-It belonged to Israel from the beginning and it belongs to us now also.
So what do you think about the future for the Jews in Europe?
– Many Jews from Sweden move to Israel. The Jews in Malmö are decreasing all the time. We only have about 2000 members in the Jewish congregation in Malmö.
In Europe in countries like France and the UK there are big problems, he says. In the UK some wants to introduce sharia laws. That will mean a bigger threat to Jews. Other parts of Europe he does’t think has as big problems as Sweden, France and the UK. He thinks that countries with a large minority of Jews will not be so much affected by immigration to Israel. However he brings up Ukraine where there is a big Nazi party in power. Jonatan brings up, that the in the EU much hated president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, has said some good things in support of Jews. Putin has, according to Jonatan, told that if he would enter Ukraine with his troops he would not hurt any Jews because Jews are a vulnerable group, that needs to be protected.
In Israel, he tells me, there will be a stronger Jewish togetherness, the Jews will become more united. The problems and threats surrounding the Jews will make them stronger and even the haredim will understand that they need to serve in the army. Then Israel will manage to deal with all wars, he explains.
What gives you hope despite all this persecution you and the Jewish people go through? What gives you hope when you see how people have to leave their homes where they have lived for generations and centuries?
-What gives me hope is that it feels like people start to realise, that there is a problem and that it is not anymore, like it was before, skinheaded Neo-Nazis in leather boots but another threat, that until now has been a taboo to talk about. People have understood, that it is a problem and we have to deal with it. What also gives me hope is that Israel will realise that the so called peace partners are not wanting peace but to destroy Israel. People are understanding that ”land for peace” is not working. It gives me hope to see that change.