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Israel: Eid al-Adha and Yom Kippur Clashes in Jerusalem Feared

Inside Israel’s Tourism Industry – Jerusalem

Israel is on high alert over fears of possible violent clashes as two of the most important holidays in the Jewish and Muslim religions overlap for the first time in 30 years.

Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha will be celebrated by Muslims and Jews around the world this weekend. But Israeli police are preparing for sectarian violence by closing off roads and reinforcing security contingents in the region’s major cities, which are fraught with religious tension.

Police spokeswoman Luba Samri said extra police had been deployed across Israel, particularly in the cities with significant Muslim minorities: Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa and Acre.

The military has also closed off access from Israel to the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, which is a common practice during major Jewish holidays.

The meaning behind the holidays

Eid al-Adha animal sacrifice

A Yemeni man carries a goat at a livestock market in the capital Sanaa on 2 October ahead of Eid al-Adha(Getty)

Yom Kippur is Judaism’s Day of Atonement during which Jews ask God to forgive them for their transgressions and refrain for eating and drinking, instead attending intense prayer services in synagogues.

The holiday, which is the holiest day of the year for Jewish people, is a 25-hour period and will begin at sunset on Friday 3 October.

Businesses and airports shut down and TV and radio stations go silent. Highways will be largely empty of cars as Jewish people refrain from driving (as is typical on the weeklyShabbas). The annual holy day leaves much of Israel’s roads clear for secular Israelis to travel and cycle on the empty streets.

Eid al-Adha is the second most important holiday in the Muslim calendar. It last for three days and starts on Saturday 4 October and is an occasion for family celebrations and outings to celebrate the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim (or Abrahim as he is known in the Bible) to sacrifice his son in accordance with God’s will.

On the start of Eid, Muslims slaughter sheep, cattle and other livestock and give part of the meat to the poor.

The holidays coincide once every 33 years. However, due to the quirks of the Jewish leap year and the fact that the faiths use different lunar calendars, it will also occur again in 2015.

The Gaza problem

Tensions are high between Arab Muslims and Jews after the 50-day war in Gaza this summer and near-constant rioting in east Jerusalem, which has a large Muslim population.

The confluence of the two holidays has leaders of both states concerned that any interaction between Muslim and Jewish groups during Saturday’s celebrations could quickly degenerate into widespread violence, as seen in 2008.

A Palestinian prepares to throw fire crackers during clashes with Israeli police in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Wadi al-Joz September 8, 2014.

East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Wadi al-Joz expected to be a hot spot of tension as the religious holidays clash(Reuters)

Acre in Israel saw widespread rioting on Yom Kippur in 2008 when an Arab resident drove through an observant Jewish neighbourhood playing loud music.

Following an agreement between Muslim and local officials, the old city of Acre had been closed to all traffic and small electric cars (that would make less noise that engines during the Jewish holy day) were provided to those wishing to go to the mosque and pray.

A clash of customs

Each religion’s different customs could also lead to increased tensions this weekend. Rabbi Michael Malchior told Times of Israel:

“The way that Jews celebrate Yom Kippur is very internal… We go into our homes and into our synagogues, it’s not a day of external celebrations.

We’ve had bad riots here in Jerusalem over the past couple of months and a terrible war this summer. There’s been a lot of bloodshed and a lot of bad feelings.– Rabbi Michael Malchior

“This is the exact opposite of Eid al-Adha. They visit each other, they travel to visit family and friends, they have a custom of going to visit grave yards, they play music. So if you don’t know that it’s a festival, some Jews might assume that the Muslim celebration is a provocation or something, which of course is not intended in any way.”

Over the past seven weeks, leaders from both communities have been working to combat this lack of knowledge.

The Chief Rabbis of Israel put out a statement to encourage Jews to be respectful of their Muslim neighbours’ customs. The Education Ministry sent a similar letter to all students explaining the holiday.

Neighbourhood rabbis of cities with mixed Muslim-Jewish populations have also appealed to their congregations for calm.

Melchior said: “This year, especially, it’s happening on such a gloomy background.

“We’ve had bad riots here in Jerusalem over the past couple of months and a terrible war this summer. There’s been a lot of bloodshed and a lot of bad feelings. I would like to take this to a place of tikkun, of healing. Maybe this is a sign that we will be going to a better place.”

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Jewish groups hail decision after reggae festival reinvites Matisyahu

In a joint statement World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder and Federation of Jewish Communities in Spain (FCJE) President Isaac Querub Caro said that the decision was both “significant and welcome.”
“We thank the organizers for realizing their mistake and for taking the necessary steps to remedy it. However, lessons must be learned from this affair,” they declared.
Both had previously called the ideological litmus test placed on Matisyahu anti-Semitic.
“The organizers have done the honorable thing and apologized. However, this affair leaves us with a sour taste in our mouths,” Lauder said.

“It was yet another example of how anti-Jewish attitudes, dressed up as vicious and unfair criticism of Israel, are still widespread, and are especially prevalent in a number of far-left global political parties. This affair also showed that the BDS movement is rotten at its core: Although pretending to fight racism, it is fuelled by anti-Semitism. It’s time people realize that and stop listening to this vicious form of propaganda.”

Speaking on behalf of the local Jewish community, Caro said that it was hoped that “that lessons have been learned for the future.”

“We need to stand together and work together in the fight against all forms of racism, anti-Semitism and hatred. This includes avoiding discriminating against people who may have a different opinion than oneself on certain issues. The Rototom Sunsplash should be about celebrating music and not about politics. I am glad that the festival organizers have realized that.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center said that the entire story made it “crystal clear” that “deeply rooted anti-Semitism” is fueling the BDS movement.

“Camouflaged as ‘anti-Zionism’ or ostensibly legitimate criticism of Israeli government policy, BDS is really a modern variant of the age-old scourge of anti-Semitism and the sooner that fact is acknowledged, the sooner BDS will be defeated,” Efraim Zuroff, the head of the center’s Israeli office, told the Post.

At some BDS events, such as one protest in South Africa in 2013, rhetoric against Israel has spilled over into outright anti-Semitism.

Demonstrating against an appearance by an Israeli jazz musician at Johannesburg University, students began chanting “shoot the Jew.”

Despite condemnations by both University Vice-Chancellor Adam Habib and the South African Jewish Board of Deputies at the time, BDS coordinator Muhammed Desai defended the call to shoot Jews and told a student newspaper that the word Jews was not meant in a literal fashion.

The call to kill Jews was “just like you would say kill the Boer at [a] funeral during the eighties [and]  it wasn’t about killing white people, it was used as a way of identifying with the apartheid regime,” Desai was quoted as saying.

‘UN resolution on Palestinian state is dangerous – even if US plans to veto it’

As an observant Jew with children in Jewish schools in Paris, he is worried about anti-Semitism in his home country and the popularity of radical Islam. He’s also worried about his government’s relations with the other country in which he has citizenship, Israel – especially France’s plan to ask the UN Security Council to call for a Palestinian state on the 1949 armistice lines.

Habib voiced his concerns to French President François Hollande while the two were returning from a visit to Italy on Sunday.

“I tried to tell the president on our flight that, in my opinion, it is counterproductive to go to the UN and try to force Israel’s hand. The great powers should push parties to negotiate, that is the only way to reach a good agreement. I think he listened. He said he would update me,” Habib told The Jerusalem Post from his office in Paris the next day.

Habib said he got the impression from Hollande that France thinks the US will veto its resolution anyway, but the MP maintained that the government would be making a mistake to pressure Israel in this way, even if it is certain it will be vetoed.

According to Habib, the UN resolution would give the Palestinians the state they want, with nothing in return – without them recognizing Israel as the Jewish state or giving up the right of return.

Instead of a UN resolution, France should push both sides to negotiate, which is the only way to bring peace, he posited.

At the same time, Habib is not very optimistic about the possible outcome of such talks.

“Israel wants and always wanted peace, but I don’t think it’s possible now,” he contended. “In the meantime, we should try to encourage coexistence to bring real peace, which would mean living side by side. [The Palestinians] don’t want any Jew to live in Gaza or Judea and Samaria; that’s not peace.”

“Whoever wants peace has to understand Jerusalem can never be divided and we need freedom of religion for all, like we have under Israeli sovereignty,” he stressed.

Habib told Hollande that Israel is ready for real peace, and proved so in the past by evacuating towns in Gaza where Israelis were born and raised. However, he delineated that the conflict is clearly not about land – otherwise the Gaza disengagement and generous offers by prime ministers Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak would have brought peace.

“Everyone wants an agreement and it’s very complicated.

The fact is that for 70 years, no one has succeeded,” he sighed.

“I explained to the president, as a French MP, that Israel is the only state in the region – where thousands of women and children are being killed – that has the same values as we do,” Habib continued. “Hamas is like Islamic State and Boko Haram, and wants Shari’a; negotiating with them is a bad idea. The world has to understand that Israel is in a hostile environment. It’s a small state, and the only one in the world for the Jewish people.”

Israel will not give up on its security and its land for “fantasies”; as a small country, it “doesn’t have the luxury of making mistakes.”

“Israel is like the life insurance of the Jewish people. I am convinced that if the State of Israel existed at the time, the Holocaust would have been impossible,” he added.

Habib asserted that Europeans can be naïve and ignore the lessons of the past, which is why they don’t understand how important it is that Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East – where he emphasized that everyone else is either a dictator or an extremist.

That naïveté applies to the Iran nuclear talks as well.

Habib expressed pride in France’s stance in the negotiations, saying his country is relatively alert, but he is concerned about the American position and Russian dominance in the negotiations.

“We all want an agreement with Iran, but it has to be a good one – and this is not a good one. We have to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and all experts and reports say they are on the way to getting one,” he pointed out.

“I don’t think we’re heading towards [a deal] that looks effective. Iran will get all its money back and will be ready for the minute it is allowed to have weapons.”

Habib compared the brewing Iran deal to the 1938 Munich Agreement: “Everyone wanted to prevent a war, but we still got one.”

The French MP postulated that a bad deal with Iran puts the whole world in danger, not just Israel.

“How can a country like the US allow something like this?” he wondered. “I don’t understand it.”

IF HABIB’S positions seem very similar to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s, there’s a reason for that: Both grew up on the philosophy of Likud forebear Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and the two have been close personal friends for over 20 years.

Habib’s father, Emanuel Habib, was a leader of the Tunisian Jewish community in France and a well-known Revisionist Zionist who was friends with prime minister Menachem Begin.

Habib, 54, joined the Jabotinsky- founded Betar youth movement as a teen; he made aliya in the late-1970s, when he finished high school in France, and studied industrial engineering at the Technion- Israel Institute of Technology.

He eventually became an executive at Citizen Watches and the Groupe Vendome luxury jewelry brand, all the while engaging in activism in the French Jewish community through the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions in France (CRIF).

It was through that activism that Habib met Netanyahu in the early 1990s, and became friends with him and his wife, Sara.

In 2013 Habib was elected a member of the French National Assembly, as part of the centrist UDI party, representing French expats in Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta, San Marino, Turkey, the Holy See and Israel – which has more French citizens than all the other areas combined. The MP said he is proud to represent constituents from places that are central to all three monotheistic religions.

When asked if he coordinates his political actions with Netanyahu, Habib’s response made it clear he was sensitive to accusations of dual loyalty.

“I ask the prime minister’s opinion and I give him mine, but he’s the prime minister of Israel and I’m an MP in France,” he began, but then continued to detail the dynamics between them.

“We talk, and of course we share values; France and Israel have the same goal [of peace].

I love France very much. I was born there, and it is my first language, but there is no problem loving both countries.

France and Israel have friendly relations.”

“I am a member of the French Parliament and Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, have been among my closest friends for 23 years – well before he became prime minister,” he revealed.

“Personally, I have learned a lot from him and gained a lot of useful experience at his side.

“This is why I am very grateful to him. I strongly believe that Netanyahu, who is still young, will [go down] in history as one of Israel’s greatest prime ministers, and will deeply mark Israel history.

I truly know that under his leadership, the people of Israel and the Jewish people worldwide are in safe hands and can sleep peacefully.

“As a Jew and as a French-Israeli binational, it is an honor for me to count him among my inner circle,” continued Habib.

“And I was touched when he said last week to [former French president Nicolas] Sarkozy, when the three of us met: ‘We are like brothers.’” As for political issues, “I talk to the prime minister often and I try to explain France’s concerns to him. The French government has good intentions and wants peace, but they don’t understand it’s not just about territory. My deep belief is this is, fundamentally, a religious war.”

AS AN observant Jew in the French National Assembly at a time when anti-Semitism in Europe is on the rise, Habib has received death threats and must be accompanied by bodyguards in France.

Habib said the attacks on a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 and the Hyper Cacher kosher supermarket in Paris earlier this year are tied to demonization of Israel.

“In [Operation Protective Edge], the media just showed dead bodies of Palestinian children all the time. Any normal person is pained to see a child killed, but the media only showed that, not the Grads and [other] rockets shot at Israel. That is why the French media holds part of responsibility in the rise of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic feelings.

“These pictures of children, trapped in a city under fire and sometimes killed, have been used as a justification for recent anti-Semitic attacks in France – for example, in last January’s attack on Hyper Cacher,” he explained.

As for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, calling for a boycott of a country is considered illegal discrimination in France, and in most cases French courts do not allow boycotts to continue – but the problem is a moral one at its core, Habib detailed.

The MP pointed to atrocities throughout the Middle East and Africa and said the UN hardly ever condemns them, but focuses on Israel.

“French people don’t hear that 300,000 people were killed in Syria and that Islamic State is crucifying Christians like they did 2,000 years ago.

They think Israel is the source of the world’s problems, when the Palestinians are responsible for the conflict,” he lamented. “War in the Middle East is not about territory, it is about religion.”

“This is a moral problem for everyone, not just Jews.

“The world needs to open its eyes. I’m not just worried about French Jews, I’m worried about France, my country, which is facing a Islamist threat,” he stated, clarifying that “of course not all Muslims are jihadis, but It is a lot of people… There are thousands of cases in France.”

We can’t know for sure. It is a lot of people… There are thousands of cases in France.

This is a phenomenon,” he warned.

“You can criticize the government, but so much attention is focused on the tiny, sole Jewish state that has been fighting for its existence for 70 years. People used to say Jews poisoned wells or put Christian blood in matzot. Today they blame a tiny state for all that is happening in the world,” Habib said.

Pope says weapons manufacturers can’t call themselves Christian

Pope Francis adjusts his glasses in front of his chair, which has an image of the Shroud of Turin woven into the red fabric, as he leads a mass during a two-day pastoral visit in Turin, Italy, June 21, 2015.

People who manufacture weapons or invest in weapons industries are hypocrites if they call themselves Christian, Pope Francis said on Sunday.

Francis issued his toughest condemnation to date of the weapons industry at a rally of thousands of young people at the end of the first day of his trip to the Italian city of Turin.

“If you trust only men you have lost,” he told the young people in a long, rambling talk about war, trust and politics after putting aside his prepared address.

“It makes me think of … people, managers, businessmen who call themselves Christian and they manufacture weapons. That leads to a bit a distrust, doesn’t it?” he said to applause.

He also criticized those who invest in weapons industries, saying “duplicity is the currency of today … they say one thing and do another.”

Francis also built on comments he has made in the past about events during the first and second world wars.

He spoke of the “tragedy of the Shoah,” using the Hebrew term for the Holocaust.

“The great powers had the pictures of the railway lines that brought the trains to the concentration camps like Auschwitz to kill Jews, Christians, homosexuals, everybody. Why didn’t they bomb (the railway lines)?”

Discussing World War One, he spoke of “the great tragedy of Armenia” but did not use the word “genocide”.

Francis sparked a diplomatic row in April calling the massacre of up to 1.5 million Armenians 100 years ago “the first genocide of the 20th century,” prompting Turkey to recall its ambassador to the Vatican.

The Vatican and the Palestinians

The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, left, and Pope Francis.

The practical effect of the Vatican’s decision to sign a treaty recognizing the state of Palestine is debatable, but it is a symbolic victory for Palestinians who are struggling to keep alive their dream of a Palestinian state, which has been thwarted by the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Vatican has effectively treated Palestine as a state since the United Nations General Assembly voted in 2012 to recognize Palestine as a nonmember observer state. It has been referring unofficially to the state of Palestine for at least a year.

But the new treaty, addressing issues like properties, taxes and protocol at holy sites, will make clear the Vatican has formally switched its diplomatic relations from the Palestine Liberation Organization, which was named in earlier drafts, to the state of Palestine.

The announcement on Wednesday comes at an especially bleak moment for Israel-Palestinian peace efforts. American-led negotiations collapsed 13 months ago and Israel is about to install a new government that is widely considered more hard-line and hostile to a two-state solution than its predecessors.

On the eve of the March 17 elections, Mr. Netanyahu said flat out that no Palestinian state would be established during his tenure, and while he later softened his position, the possibility of any serious negotiating initiative seems dead. The guidelines for Israel’s new government even omitted the term “Palestinian state.”

Many experts believe that Israel’s expansion of housing units for Israelis in the West Bank and East Jerusalem has made establishing a territorially coherent Palestinian state nearly impossible. All of which has set the Palestinians on a quest for international recognition and support for sovereignty, ultimately to pressure Israel into talks.

Not surprisingly, Israel expressed disappointment at the Vatican’s decision and said it would not advance the cause of peace. Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, was less restrained, telling The Washington Post the treaty represents a resurgence of the “historical Catholic enmity towards Jews.”

But Pope Francis has made it a point to improve relations with other religious denominations and has described the spiritual bond between Catholics and Jews as “very special.”

Last month, he condemned anti-Semitic incidents in Europe and declared that Christians and Jews must defend one another from discrimination and persecution.

He has also repeatedly demonstrated a commitment to social and humanitarian issues, speaking out with his moral authority on the need to confront inequality around the world.

While the Vatican’s announcement may carry special weight, it’s far from the only government to recognize Palestine. Some 135 nations have recognized a state of Palestine since 1988. In October, Sweden formally recognized the Palestinian state.

In recent months, parliaments in Britain, Spain, France and Ireland have urged their governments to do the same. Meanwhile, international efforts are underway to increase pressure on Israel through boycotts and United Nations resolutions.

A negotiated Israeli-Palestinian deal on a two-state solution is the best chance for justice and peace. But given the complete breakdown of negotiations, it is likely that more governments, in supporting the claims of the Palestinian people, will formally accept Palestine as a state.

Former Nazi Guard Oskar Groening Kisses Holocaust Survivor Eva Kor During His Trial

“Nothing good ever comes from anger. Any goodwill gesture in my book will win over anger any time.”

Those were the words penned by Eva Mozes Kor, an 81-year-old Auschwitz survivor after she was kissed and embraced by a former Nazi guard during his trial.

Former SS Sgt. Oskar Groening is being tried in Germany as an accessory to the murder of at least 300,000 Jews at Auschwitz. Groening, now 93, admits he kept watch as thousands were led to the gas chambers at the concentration camp.

Közvetlen hivatkozás a képhez

Kor, who was subjected to horrific medical experiments at Auschwitz, testified last week at Groening’s trial. On Friday, she approached the former SS guard in court.

Kor wrote in an op-ed for The Times of London that she wanted to “thank him for having some human decency in accepting responsibility for what he has done.”

Groening’s reaction, however, took Kor — and everyone in the courtroom — by surprise.

He kissed Kor on the cheek and embraced her.

“I was a little bit astonished,” said Kor, who according to the Times of Israel traveled from Indiana to Germany for the trial. “It was not planned. This is what you see when you see two human beings interact. He likes me, how about that? I am going back to the U.S. with a kiss on my cheek from a former Nazi.”’

On Friday, Kor shared a photograph on Facebook of her and Groening holding hands. She penned a long caption to accompany the moving image.

“I know many people will criticize me for this photo, but so be it,” she wrote. “It was two human beings 70 years after it happened. For the life of me I will never understand why anger is preferable to a goodwill gesture.”

Kor said that she still holds Groening accountable for his actions during the Holocaust.

“He was a small screw in a big killing machine, and the machine cannot function without the small screws,” Kor wrote. However, Kor added that she forgives the man, and believes that there may be value in bringing “the victims” and “the perpetrators” together to “face the truth, try to heal and work together to prevent it from ever happening again.”

According to the AP, Groening was “indicted under a new line of German legal reasoning that anyone who helped a death camp function can be accused of being an accessory to murder without evidence of participation in a specific crime.”

At the first day of his trial last week, Groening acknowledged sharing the “moral guilt” of the murders.

“I ask for forgiveness. I share morally in the guilt but whether I am guilty under criminal law, you will have to decide,” he told the court, per the BBC.

If found guilty, Groening could face three to 15 years in prison.

Groening is known for being one of the few Nazis who has spoken publicly about his role in the genocide. He has said previously that he chose to speak out in the hopes of silencing Holocaust deniers.

Jews reject Russia claims of Ukraine anti-Semitism

Leaders of Ukraine’s Jewish community have come out strongly in support of the Kiev government in its conflict with Russia, rejecting Moscow’s accusations that their country is now a hotbed of anti-Semitism.

But some are uneasy about the far-right extremists fighting with Ukrainian volunteer battalions in the east, as well as incidents of “everyday anti-Semitism” in Ukraine.

Russian media and officials have been portraying Ukraine as a hotbed of far-right extremism, including anti-Semitism, ever since former President Viktor Yanukovych was removed from power at the end of February.

In his first public reaction to Mr Yanukovych’s downfall, President Vladimir Putin told journalists on 4 March: “We see the rampage of reactionary forces, nationalist and anti-Semitic forces going on in certain parts of Ukraine, including Kiev.”

He used similar language in his speech declaring the annexation of Crimea two weeks later, when he said that the “coup” against Mr Yanukovych was the work of “nationalists, neo-Nazis, Russophobes and anti-Semites”.

The Association of Jewish Organisations and Communities (VAAD) of Ukraine responded with an open letter saying that President Putin’s assertions about the rise of anti-Semitism in their country “did not match reality”.

Mr Putin’s advisers “might have confused Ukraine with Russia where Jewish organisations registered a rise of anti-Semitism last year”, it added.

Fascists on both sides

Shmuel Kaminetsky, a rabbi in Dnipropetrovsk, home to one of the country’s largest Jewish communities, also rejects the idea that Ukraine is anti-Semitic.

Dmitry Yarosh campaign poster (24 Oct)Russian media warn of the threat of Dmitry Yarosh’s Right Sector, but the party’s electoral support is not high

Life is “easier and safer” for Jews in Ukraine than in Western countries such as Belgium and France, where radical Islam is on the rise, he said in a recent film about efforts to defend Dnipropetrovsk against the Russian-backed insurgency.

Ever since Mr Yanukovych’s downfall, Russian media have played up the threat from Ukrainian far-right organisations, such as Right Sector and the Freedom party.

But neither of these parties has widespread support. In the presidential election in May their leaders obtained a combined vote of less than 2%. They also failed to breach the 5% threshold in the recent parliamentary election.

Still, concerns remain about the presence of far-right extremists in some parts of Ukrainian society, especially the new volunteer battalions, which have played a key role in the current conflict.

VAAD Ukraine director Yosyp Zisels told a news conference in October that the volunteers were fighting “bravely” for Ukraine’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity”. But he conceded some of them held views that are “Nazi, ultranationalist and racist”.

Far-right extremists and fascists were fighting on both sides of the conflict, Zisels said.

Key figure

A key figure in organising and financing the Ukrainian volunteer battalions is Dnipropetrovsk regional governor and businessman Ihor Kolomoisky, an important member of the Dnipropetrovsk Jewish community and himself a frequent target of attacks in the Russian media.

Mr Kolomoisky is actively involved with the Fund for the Defence of the Country, which collects money to provide Ukrainian troops with medicines, food and equipment. It also helps to look after people displaced by the conflict.

Ihor Kolomoisky A Russian TV screen grab of Ihor Kolomoisky, the target of frequent attacks in Russian media

Some local synagogues have also joined the war effort.

“We are providing comprehensive assistance to servicemen fighting against terrorists and protecting the unity and integrity of Ukraine. We are calling on Dnipropetrovsk’s Jews to actively help them,” the city’s Golden Rose synagogue said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Jewish leaders are increasingly concerned about the fate of fellow Jews in areas controlled by the insurgents, especially after the murder of Jewish businessman Heorhiy Zilberbrod in Donetsk in August.

In September, at least 100 Jewish families fled Donetsk to the government-controlled city of Mariupol, according to Donetsk rabbi Pinkhas Vyshedsky.

Rabbi Vyshedsky himself recently moved his office to Kiev “to help Jews from his city who found refuge in the capital and other parts of the country”, Jewish website Chabad.org said.

“Jews are running away from the Russian world to hide under the wing of the fascist Kiev junta? What more can one say?” news website Argument UA commented.

Everyday anti-Semitism

Nevertheless, some Jews are also concerned about their safety in Kiev.

In September, swastikas were painted on the Babi Yar Holocaust memorial in Kiev, where 34,000 Jews were murdered in the course of a week in September 1941.

Commenting on the incident, World Jewish Congress vice-president Boris Fuchsman said: “We often say that there is no anti-Semitism at the state level today, but no-one has rooted out everyday anti-Semitism.”

Menorah monument at the Babi Yar memorialMenorah monument at the Babi Yar memorial

Tzvi Arieli, a former member of the Israeli army, has set up a Jewish self-defence group in Kiev to protect the community against possible anti-Semitic attacks.

“Jews are often among the first to fall victim in conflicts even if they are not directly involved, therefore we need to be able to protect our community in co-ordination with the authorities, of course,” he told Jewish newspaper Hadashot.

His group hones its combat skills together with interior ministry units, and is licensed to carry arms.

But Mr Arieli rejects the Russian media’s portrayal of Ukraine as a country that is hostile to Jews.

“There can be opposing views, but don’t say black is white, which is what the propaganda of the neighbouring state often does when it advances the thesis of buoyant neo-fascism in Ukraine,” he said.

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