The Hague, Netherlands — On a cold winter night in 2008, Wim Kortenoeven was startled by the crackling of a large fire raging near his home on the edge of this city’s last remaining Jewish enclave.
Rushing from his apartment, Kortenoeven walked 70 yards and crossed the line separating his Jewish-owned housing project from the predominantly Muslim borough containing what Dutch media have taken to calling the “Sharia triangle” — Sharia referring to Islamic law.
On the seam line, he encountered dozens of Dutch Moroccans looking at several parked cars that vandals had set on fire.
Fearing explosions, Kortenoeven shouted to the people looking down from their balconies to go back inside, but his intervention was ignored.
“Onlookers started closing in on me, shoving me, asking if I was police, what I was doing in ‘their neighborhood,’” he said. Kortenoeven scuffled with one man but managed to get away.
Kortenoeven has since moved, but about a dozen Jewish households remain in the little-known Jewish enclave known as the Van Ostade Housing Project. The gated community of 200 units built in the 1880s to house poor Jews is surrounded by the Schilderswijk neighborhood — 91 percent of its residents are foreign-born, half of them Moroccan or Turkish.
Earlier this month, Schilderswijk became national news after a Dutch newspaper reported that part of the neighborhood had become a “Sharia triangle” that police dare not enter. The report prompted a high-profile visit from the stridently anti-Muslim politician Geert Wilders, whose party called this month for a government study of anti-Semitism among Muslim immigrants.
“It is unacceptable that women in skirts should be harassed here,” Wilders said during his visit. “This is Holland. Sharia does not apply here.”
Dutch police have denied that Schilderswijk has become a lawless territory and insist they have security under control. But the Holland Wilders fears is already a reality for some Jews of Van Ostade.