SARAJEVO—Jewish community leaders in Bosnia have expressed concern after anti-Semitic graffiti were discovered this week in the country’s capital Sarajevo and in Tuzla on homes of community members.
“We received this news with regret and bitterness, aware that these incidents will not violate the good neighbourhood relations that Bosnian Jews have built with their fellow citizens from other ethnic and religious groups,’’ the Jewish community said in a statement issued on Friday.
“We appeal to the competent authorities to identify and punish the perpetrators,” it said, stressing that the country has no recent history of anti-Semitic incidents.
Jews have been equal citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina for more than 450 years and they did not deserve something like this, said the community President Jakob Finci.
“We know that a certain trend of Messianism is present all over Europe and even wider and that such incidents happen everywhere, but we didn’t expect that to happen in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” he added.
The Mayor of Sarajevo, Abdulah Skaka, condemned the incident while also insisting on the centuries-old coexistence of different religious communities in the country. “Sarajevans have been nourishing the wealth of different cultures for decades, and the inter-religious respect has been preserved in Sarajevo even in the most difficult times and we are convinced that … these acts will never be welcome in this city,” the Mayor’s office said.
About 1,000 Jews live in the country, half of them in Sarajevo and the rest in Mostar, Zenica, Tuzla, Doboj and Banja Luka..
Two-thirds of the community left after the outbreak of conflict in the former Yugoslavia (1992-1995), but the tendency toward emigration has slackened. Some 90% of the community is Sephardi. However, only older people still speak Ladino.
The community was decimated in WWII when Bosnia was occupied by Nazi Germany and their Croat Fascist allies.
The World Jewish Congress expressed dismay at the anti-Semitic expression in Bosnia and underscored the need for authorities to treat the issue seriously and make every effort to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“Bosnia and Herzegovina is historically one of the safest and most welcoming countries for Jews, generally free from anti-Semitism and rich in close relations between citizens of all faiths and backgrounds,” said WJC CEO Robert Singer said. “During my visit there last year and meeting with Prime Minister Fadil Novalić initiated by the President of the Jewish Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ambassador Jakob Finci, I was struck by the warmth experienced by the community in an overwhelmingly Muslim country, and grateful for the government’s dedication to preserving Jewish heritage, including the hundreds-year old Sarajevo Haggadah,” Singer added.
“We urge authorities across the country to do everything in their power ensure that the Jewish community continue to live with the same sense of safety and trust that has thrived in Bosnia and Herzegovina for so long,” he said.