Israel’s ambassador to Germany reiterated that Jews who feel unsafe in Europe due to recent anti-Semitic attacks should “come to [Israel] at any time” – an approach recently rejected by the head of Germany’s Jewish community.
In an interview published Sunday in the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel, Yakov Hadas-Handelsman echoed last week’s invitation from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Jews in Europe “consider Israel your home.”
Hadas-Handelsman said he “really does not envy any Jew living in Europe today.”
Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, had responded on Feb. 17 to Netanyahu’s invitation by noting that threats against Jews and Jewish institutions were a “worldwide phenomenon” and that “life in Israel as a Jew is not any more secure.”
While Schuster said he recognized that it is only natural for Israel to encourage aliyah, he personally saw no special reason for Jews to consider emigrating now, even with the increased risk of attacks by home-grown jihadists.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said last week that her government would do everything possible to ensure the safety of Jews and their institutions in the country. “We want to continue living together well with the Jews who are in Germany today,” she said.
In Sunday’s interview, Hadas-Handelsman commended Merkel for making it clear that “it is not normal for synagogues and Jewish schools to need police protection.”
In related news, this week at least two independent experiments were conducted in which Jews walked through various Berlin neighborhoods wearing a yarmulke, and were filmed. In both cases, there were no unpleasant encounters reported. But one of the testers, Israeli-German actor Amit Jacobi, said the results by no means meant there was no anti-Semitism in Germany.
Germany’s Jewish population is estimated at more than 240,000, consisting mostly of former Soviet Jews who came to Germany since 1990. Fewer than half are members of Jewish communities, in part because they do not qualify under Jewish law, which requires having a Jewish mother or an Orthodox conversion. The number of Israelis living in Germany is debated, but the German Press Council recently said there were 11,655 Israelis officially registered in Germany in 2013.