A Shabbat of Unrest: A Jewish Community Under Bomb Threat

Members of the Jewish Community of Belgrade rushed to the JC building right after the prayers on Saturday, as soon as they were called upon by the community's security. Police personnel could be also seen in the picture taken on March 16th, 2019.
Members of the Jewish Community of Belgrade rushed to the JC building right after the prayers on Saturday, as soon as they were called upon by the community's security. Police personnel could be also seen in the picture taken on March 16th, 2019.

Holy Days with Dark Memories

Shabbat or the Sabbath, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar comes once every week. From the sunset of Friday until that of Saturday, the Jewish people leave the troubles of this world behind, following a strict set of Torah laws that helps us dedicate this day to rest and to worship. This day is one of the strongest symbols of Jewish identity; this day is the 7th Day on which Jews rest peacefully, just as God rested after 6 days of creation.

The worst enemies of the Jewish nation throughout history, who had dedicated themselves to the destruction of our nation, made it a tradition to attack Jews on this day, the holiest day in our life cycle. We all remember how Jews were recently attacked as they went to pray during the Sabbath in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US. This trend of attacking Jews during the holiest of their holidays was also seen when Jews were attacked in Israel on Yom Kippur 1973 by 9 Arab armies backed by Cuba and the Soviet Union.

A Shocking Parallel

Although what happened today in Belgrade cannot in anyway be compared in intensity to the aforementioned tragedies still, invoking unrest upon Jews during a sacred day is a parallel that one can draw in terms of essence.

The Jewish Community of Belgrade, in addition to being under fire in recent months, has seen another shocking turn of events today. Around midday today, March 16th, the local Police alongside the Special Anti-Explosives units arrived at the Jewish community building. They explained that they had received a tip claiming that there was a bomb in the building and requested to be allowed entry in order to ensure that the building was safe. The community’s security realised that there was a heinous plot behind this. They refused to let anyone in for some time until the community members who were at the synagogue nearby were informed and asked to arrive urgently at the scene. Three officers from the anti-explosives unit were then allowed in, accompanied by a sniffer dog, in order to verify the tip that they had received. They came out half an hour later confirming that the building was safe and that the tip was a false alarm.

Police Forces in front of the Belgrade Jewish Community building today, March 16th, 2019.

Devils Lurking in Every Corner

The police did not arrive alone. At the same time, associates of Danilo Medić, including his confidante and private security employee, Tomislav Gačić, two of their lawyers and a team of 5 security personnel from Euro Security, a private security firm, arrived at the scene.

Tomislav Gačić (left) with security personnel from Euro Security, across the street from the Jewish community building of Belgrade. March 16th, 2019.

Tomislav Gačić is one of Medić’s closest associates; he lead the siege of the community building on February 28th and he could also be seen in the security footage in which Medic and his puppet Avram Izrael were seen attacking an employee of the community on the same day.

Tomislav Gačić coordinating the siege of the community building ordered by Medić. Photo taken on February 28th, 2019.

Euro Security personnel stood across the street from the building, the two lawyers quietly stood by the community building, while Gačić was obviously coordinating their presence there, since he was seen standing with the security personnel in some instances and with the lawyers in other instances.

Tomislav Gačić with two of Medić’s lawyers next to the Belgrade Jewish community building on March 16th, 2019.

The police did not inform Medić and his overthrown administration of this potential threat, so the questions that remains unanswered is what was his personnel doing there? And how did they know about the tip the police had received? A more pressing question is: why did his security team and lawyers arrive there? What could they possibly do about a bomb threat?

Danilo Medić, 48, whose paternal grandmother was Jewish, became a member of the Jewish community of Belgrade back in 2006. Since then he had been entirely absent from and unengaged in all aspects of community life. He then resurfaced out of nowhere back in 2015.

In October 2017, Medić was one of two candidates for the presidency of the community. He won an election that he could have hardly lost given that the other candidate was disqualified from the race.

Medić was overthrown on December 2nd of last year by an absolute majority of 233 community members at an extraordinary assembly, ending over a year of his presidency. His reign was the darkest for this small Jewish community, with him and his team constantly breaching the community’s by-laws, using its resources for personal affairs and diverting restitution money to their own pockets. So far, Medić continues to refuse the results of this vote and he continues to orchestrate campaigns of defamation and propaganda against community members. Many accuse his rhetoric against community members of being damaging and anti-Semitic given that he insists on portraying the issue as ”Jews fighting over money” and branding community members opposing his corruption as ”opposition political activists” in an attempt to invoke the government’s dismay.

In relation to claims that this is a fight about money, Brane Popović a member of the Interim Administration elected to replace Medić and his administration, has said:

“It doesn’t surprise me, it’s the same old anti-Semitic story of Jews and money. I’m a man who has given his life to the service of this community and all I want is to see that these hands of evil and corruption will be lifted from our community. Anyone who suggests otherwise is a lying fool”.

The Obvious Answer: Bomb Threat, A Heinous Plot

A member of the community that was present at the scene said: ‘’This is a hoax made by Medić; they were expecting the building to be evacuated, and they wanted to create a chaotic situation which would have given his associates a window to enter the building, take control over it and cancel the elections scheduled for tomorrow’’.

The Interim Administration of the Jewish community of Belgrade has scheduled an electoral assembly for tomorrow, while Medić refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the legally elected Interim Administration and continues to plot for the cancellation of the electoral assembly scheduled for tomorrow in an effort to buy himself some time to continue the battle for the survival of his overthrown mob. The chaos ensuing from a bomb threat could have indeed given him and his associates the perfect chance to take over the building that had been peacefully overtaken the Interim Administration on February 28th.

‘’I could exactly imagine what they had in mind. They thought the police would evacuate the building and in the immediate aftermath their associates would come in, lock down the building and forbid members from holding the assembly scheduled for tomorrow. Lawyers were there to give statements upon the takeover, and the private security would then ensure that the building was locked down. Fortunately, this didn’t work out for them’’.

The professionalism of the Police Force as well as the community’s security doomed any such plot to failure. Also, the immediate arrival of community members from the nearby synagogue made it impossible for anyone to even attempt to enter the building, except for the police who were allowed entry in order to carry out their duties.

Before they were allowed in, the police were told of fears that Medić’s associates would use this as an opportunity to take over the building. A police officer responded to these fears saying ‘’Worry not, nothing like that could happen under our watch. We are professionals and we came to carry out our duties, no need to insult our professionalism’’. The police were impressive and they carried out their duties calmly and professionally.

‘’Such a threat could also serve as a way to spread fear, so community members would refrain from coming to vote tomorrow, this is psychological warfare par excellence’’, another member of the community suggested.

How Far is The Medić Mob Ready To Go?

Medić had already lied when applying for membership at the community and failed to mention that he had been baptised, married and divorced in the Serbian Orthodox Church, something that according to the community by-laws would disqualify him from being a member, let alone president. If his involvement in today’s hoax is proven, then not only is this man not Jewish, he is in fact anti-Jewish. If he was indeed behind today’s heinous plot, then he has successfully aligned himself with countless anti-Semites throughout history who found in the Sabbath a suitable day to invoke unrest upon the Jewish community. Medić and his mob continue to prove that they are ready to go to unimaginable lengths in order to be able to continue abusing the community’s resources and to rob it of the money of its Holocaust victims. If Medić was indeed behind this horrendous move, then this is no longer a fight for control over the community, this is a full-blown war on Jews and Jewish identity.

Hands Off Our Community and Shabbat Shalom

As the police were securing the building, members who were inside wrote on paper a sign saying ‘’Hands Off JCB (Jewish Community of Belgrade)’’ and another saying ‘’Shabbat Shalom’’ in both Hebrew and Latin Alphabet.

A sign on the window of the Jewish community building. March 16, 2019.

J.N., a member of the community commented on the situation saying ‘’They wanted to at least strike at our morale, but each strike just makes us stronger and more committed to uprooting this evil from amongst us’’.

Shabbat Shalom in Hebrew and Latin alphabet could be seen in a sign attached to a window of the Jewish community building in Belgrade. March 16, 2019.

Calm after the Storm, or the Other Way Around

The professionalism of the police and the presence of our community members ensured that the situation was cleared without any violence or conflict. Upon securing the building the police moved across the street to investigate the suspicious presence of Medić’s associates and perform identity checks.

Police investigating the presence of Medić affiliated private security across the street from the Jewish community building in Belgrade. March 16th, 2019.

Medić’s associates then cleared the area around the building and retreated altogether. Calm then followed, but the community remains alert fearing that similar attempts maybe made tonight or tomorrow to prevent the elections from taking place. The local Media shortly arrived at the scene with both Prva TV and RTS covering the matter. Blic has also reported on the issue.

Elections, Hope and Resilience

If they’re indeed behind what happened, today’s events suggest once more that the Medić mob is ready to employ the dirtiest tricks possible in their fight. Thus, the community is more united and committed than ever to the success of tomorrow’s elections.

The community is now hoping that the Ministry of Justice will not fail to register the results of tomorrow’s elections as they have inexplicably failed to do so in the aftermath of the December 2nd Assembly. Many believe that Medić’s boasting about being supported by the government are true in light of the government’s failures to proceed in accordance with the laws and the constitution. But hope that the government will come to their senses is strong, since people see any failure to register the results of tomorrow’s elections as a scandal that the government cannot afford to commit a second time.

‘’We are committed more than ever, we are resilient and we will not back down until our rights to autonomy and the will of the majority of our community’s members are respected. We will do whatever it takes, this is a fight that we will not lose”, D.P., a member of the community stated.

Another member of the community, V.J, rushed to find a quote by Ze’ev Jabotinsky online, and read it to me out loud, the quote reads:

“It is always aimed at us, and we must respond. We must end this abuse of ourselves, at all costs. And it is very easy. They spit in our faces without fear, ‘in passing’, for no reason – not because our insulters are blessed with courage and want to pick a fight with us, but because this pleasure is so cheap for them: they will spit at us and go on their way, and nothing will happen.”

”We must respond and continue the fight” Added V.J.

As Purim is coming closer by the day, we once again go back to asking the question: will the Jewish community of Belgrade see salvation from their Haman (a.k.a. Medić) just as the Persian Jews did?

About the Author
David is the president of Olam Center for the Preservation and Advancement of Jewish Values. He has a degree in Arabic language, literature and civilization and is pursuing further studies in the fields of diplomacy, international relations and journalism.
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