By Rabbi Menachem Margolin, Chairman of the European Jewish Association in Brussels
Dear fellow Belgian,
It’s probably not often that you hear from a Jew. And the first thing I’m going to do is ask for your help. Not necessarily the best start but given the circumstances I regrettably must do so.
On the 1st September the Government is removing the army protection that was granted to our Buildings, schools and synagogues since the Brussels terror attacks and the murders at the Jewish museum in Brussels. As taxpayers, I want to say a heartfelt thanks to you for this support up until now. We are a small community, but one with a big heart, and that heart appreciates you all very much.
Like you, we were shocked to the core at the affront to our way of life in the wake of the attacks. Like you, we mourned, we felt angry, vulnerable. Happily, for a majority of you the worst has passed and the threat level is now medium. Unfortunately for us, that threat level is still high, with a threat level of ‘serious’ and ‘probable’ according to the centre that measures these things.
I wish we could go about our daily business and lives without the need for armed protection outside our schools and buildings. Our kids are used to it, sadly. We live under the shadow of guns: Those that protect us whose outline is traced on the pavements and windows of our buildings, and the creeping shadow of the guns of those that want us dead, constantly imprinted at the back of our minds.
Why now you may ask? What has changed so substantially to warrant this removal? It’s a good question. Our answer as far as we are concerned is nothing. In fact, if anything, things are worse. Antisemitism is on the rise. Extremists hate Israel with a burning passion and regard every Jew in Belgium responsible for the Israel Palestinian conflict. We are marked out for punishment. Things are not looking up for us. And without this protection, and without a suitable alternative in place, we are wide open, with a target sign on our backs.
But it’s not sympathy I’m asking you for, but solidarity. All together is what we sing when it comes to Belgium. The Union makes us strong. Whether you share that sentiment or not at a national level is fine, but on a human level it is undeniable. Belgium is a great country, made up of all peoples. And when one part of that people is under threat, I’d like to think we are all under threat.
So, I’m asking you as a fellow Belgian, as a fellow human being, and as the majority to our minority, not to allow the security for Jews to be dropped. To say to our government that when any Belgian is threatened, we are all threatened. And that, just like we stood shoulder to shoulder during the worst of times in 2014 and again in 2016, we must continue to stand shoulder to shoulder even if things are better for you all, but not for everyone. It’s a burden on the brave men and women of our armed forces for sure, but a very necessary burden. We wish we didn’t need it. But we do. It’s that simple.
Thank you and may G-d bless you and your families,