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May 25, 2014 10:59 pm

Belgian Prime Minister and Jewish Community Respond to Attack

avatar by Anav Silverman / Tazpit News Agency

The scene of the shooting at the Jewish Museum of Brussels. Photo: Screenshot.

Following the deadly shooting attack at the Jewish museum in Brussels that left a Tel Aviv couple and two museum volunteers dead yesterday, Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday afternoon.

The Belgian Prime Minister phoned to update Netanyahu on the details of the investigation into the Brussels attack, while expressing shock over the murders. The victims included Tel Aviv couple, Mira and Emmanuel Riva, who have left behind two teenage daughters.

Di Rupo condemned the assault and conveyed his condolences to the families of the victims.

“It is in everyone’s mind. In Belgium we are not accustomed to such acts of barbarity,” Di Rupo said earlier in the day.

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Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked his Belgian counterpart for the call and offered to cooperate with the investigation. “As of now, you are the only European leader who has called me on this issue. I am very disturbed by the growing anti-Semitism in Europe. There must be zero tolerance for anti-Semitism toward Jews and their state,” Netanyahu said.

Maurice Sosnowski, President of the Coordination Center of Jewish organizations in Belgium, said that this attack, if confirmed, would be the “worst anti-Jewish attack in Brussels since the Second World War.” The last attack against a Jewish target in Belgium took place more than 30 years ago in 1982 when a gunman opened fire at the entrance to a Brussels synagogue.

Belgian police have yet to identify the gunman, who they said was well-prepared for the attack and is believed to have been assisted by an accomplice driver. According to eye-witnesses, the shooter targeted museum visitors, firing bullets into their faces and necks.

Belgium is home to 40,000 Jews, with approximately half living in Brussels and the other half in Antwerp.

The cantor of a local Brussels synagogue told Tazpit News Agency that despite the shooting, Jewish congregants came to prayer services as usual on Saturday evening. “There was a debate with security whether to cancel services but we held prayers as usual,” Shimon Klein told Tazpit. “I’m a religious man and I don’t hide my kippa here. I believe that anything can happen anywhere so I continue with life as usual.”

But the attack, Klein said, left others in the Jewish community, including his wife , feeling apprehensive.

The President of the Belgian League against Anti-Semitism, Joel Rubinfeld, stated that such an attack did not surprise him because of the “climate of hate.” “This kind of attack was in the air,” he told the Financial Times. “Over the past few years, we’ve allowed anti-Semitic speech to run loose; it’s this violent language that has armed the terrorists’ guns.”

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