February 19, 2015
Dear Friend of Israel,
Last weekend, in an attack that bore an eerie resemblance to the January massacre that killed 16 people in Paris, a lone gunman who reportedly swore allegiance to the ISIS terrorist group struck in Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark. His first target was a cultural center that was holding a seminar on free speech. Here, he riddled the center with bullets, killing a filmmaker and injuring many more. His second target was a synagogue, where he shot and murdered a security guard protecting a bat mitzvah ceremony.
This atrocity is just the most recent attack in what one British Member of Parliament, Baroness Ruth Deech, calls “a climate of extremism that is sweeping Europe.” This extremism, driven primarily by radical Islamists, first and foremost has manifested itself in a precipitous rise of what one author once called “the longest and deepest hatred of human history”: anti-Semitism. Jews and Jewish institutions in Europe are increasingly under attack. But it also manifests itself in an overall contempt for the values we in the West hold dear: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and personal liberty.
Besides Baroness Deech, who is a staunch defender of Israel and the Jewish people, there are some European politicians who have been honest enough to speak frankly about what is going on. In a speech to his own government, France’s Prime Minister angrily asked, “How can we accept that in France, where the Jews were emancipated two centuries ago, but which was also where they were martyred [during the Nazi Holocaust] 70 years ago, that cries of ‘death to the Jews’ can be heard on the streets?” And, after the most recent deadly attack in Denmark, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt said, “When you mercilessly fire deadly bullets at innocent people taking part in a debate, when you attack the Jewish community, you attack our democracy, the whole of Denmark is attacked … We will do everything possible to protect our Jewish community.”
Words of support, of course, are welcome. But words alone will not keep Europe’s Jewish community safe. There is only one country that guarantees all Jews this safety, a fact that was summed up definitively by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu when he said, following the attack in Denmark, “Of course, Jews deserve protection in every country but we say to Jews, to our brothers and sisters: Israel is your home. We are preparing and calling for the absorption of mass immigration from Europe. I would like to tell all European Jews and all Jews wherever they are: ‘Israel is the home of every Jew.'”
Some European leaders reacted with anger to Prime Minster Netanyahu’s words, citing the right of Jews to live wherever they want. But the onus now is on these leaders to confront and destroy, root and branch, the poison of anti-Semitism and intolerance that has been allowed to flourish in their countries if they truly want to protect and retain their Jewish communities. There must be action; words of support are not enough. Words alone cannot change the horrifying fact that the Jews of Europe, 70 years after the horrors of the Holocaust, are being harassed on the streets to the point that necessitates armed guards in front of synagogues and Jewish schools. There are no words European leaders could use to explain to the Jews of Europe why they should not react to an unchecked scourge of anti-Semitic violence by coming to the one nation that offers them safety, the freedom to worship, and the dignity of self-determination: Israel.
In 1896, Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, wrote, “We [Jews] shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and in our own homes peacefully die. The world will be liberated by our freedom, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind.”
To those Jews who choose to live in Europe and other lands where they are threatened by anti-Semitism, let me promise that The Fellowship and its Christian and Jewish donors will do everything we can to ensure your protection. And to those who wish to make aliyah (immigrate to Israel), it is my promise that we will do all we can to facilitate this, and see that you are able to “live at last as free men on [your] own soil.”
With prayers for safety for all who are threatened by hatred, war, and intolerance, and for God’s most precious gift of shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein