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July 27, 2011 12:01 am

Norwegian Jews Respond To Terror Attack

avatar by Maxine Dovere

Flower march in downtown Oslo, Norway, on Monday, July 25th 2011 in the aftermath of the 2011 Norway attacks. An estimated 150,000 to 200,000 attended the flower march. Photo: Mathias.

“An event like this is so beyond the scope of life – so, so foreign, that it will probably take some time to recover.” Rabbi Shaul Wilhelm, Director of the Chabad-Lubavitch Center in Oslo, Norway told the Algemeiner on Tuesday afternoon.

According to the Rabbi, the Jews in Norway are well integrated into society… “This terrible tragedy – one that is beyond imagination, hurts each and every citizen living here.” His words reflect those of Prime Minister Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg:  “We are truly in pain, in shock and are reaching out to each of our friends, neighbors and associates. …. As a tolerant nation we will be even more tolerant and peace loving.”

Asked by the Algemeiner if any members of the Jewish community had  been direct victims of the paired tragedies, he said “there are quite a few of us – especially among the teens and young adults who personally know some of the victims…We in Norway now fully understand the disaster to which hate can lead.”

Avi Ring, a former board member of Norway’s official Jewish community organization, called the Mosaic Religious Community (DMT) told the JTA that “It’s like a country sitting shiva.”

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The Jewish community in Oslo numbers about 1500. Its history dates to the Inquisition, when the expelled Jewish of Spain were allowed into the country and lived peacefully for almost 200 years.  For more than 150 years following that period, from 1687 to 1851, the community was expelled from its adopted homeland. The first synagogue was built in Oslo in 1892. Under Nazi occupation, about 800 Jews lost their lives; others sought asylum in Sweden and never returned.

Yet even as they mourn along with their fellow countrymen, some Jews here are quietly expressing concern that the acts of Anders Behring Breivik may further raise anti Israel voices in Norway, a country with strong pro Palestinian leanings, embraced by much of its political leadership. Just one day before the shooting, the country’s foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Store had participated in a debate on the Middle East at the youth conclave on Utoya Island, and as reported in the Algemeiner, expressed his opposition to a boycott of Israel but his – and his government’s – support of an independent Palestinian state.

Norway’s Ambassador to Israel, Svein Sevje, told the Israeli newspaper Maariv that there are “distinctions between the Norwegian attacks and terrorism in Israel.” “We Norwegians consider the occupation to be the cause of the terror against Israel,” he said. “Those who believe this will not change their mind because of the attack in Oslo.”

“To prove Breivik and his ideology wrong” said Rabbi Wilhelm, “embrace tolerance.  …What we should try to learn from all this is that multiculturalism isn’t just a thesis and a concept,” he said. “That would be the greatest revenge against this murderer and against people of his ilk: that we can actually practice tolerance in a very real way.”

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