Around a hundred rabbis from across Europe have come to Prague to attend a self-defence course designed to provide Jews with a means of fighting back in the event of anti-Semitic attacks. The move comes amidst increasing security fears within the European Jewish community following a number of attacks.
Many of Europe’s Jews are feeling increasingly unsafe following a spate of anti-Semitic attacks across the continent, including in Brussels, Paris and Copenhagen. One the one side, this has led to calls from some, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for Jews to consider a mass immigration to Israel – “the home of every Jew”.
But for the countless Jews rejecting such a solution, a conference currently under way in Prague is promising to offer a way to stand and fight what France’s President Holland recently described as the anti-Semitic “leprosy” infecting Europe. The gathering is organized by Rabbi Menachem Margolin, head of the European Jewish Association, as well as ZAKA, a religious volunteer charity network, and the Rabbinical Centre of Europe (RCE).
ZAKA unit chief Mat Goldstein spoke to Czech Television and explained how he was training the rabbis to deal with a potential violent assault:
“For the first ten minutes…we want to make sure, for our safety, to see that if they are still shooting or anything else that we stop it. After that, we want to take care of people that are critically injured.”
The classes teach rabbis not only various self-defence tricks, such as disarming a knife-yielding assailant, but also first aid which may be needed in the wake of a terrorist attack. German rabbi Tuvia Hod described the merits of the course to Czech Television:
“You know, [it enables you] to defend yourself, and secondly it [teaches you] to not panic.”
The three day event began on Monday and is a direct response to a spate of recent attacks on Jews, including those which led to the deaths of four people in a French kosher supermarket in January.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin has called on European governments to provide greater security to synagogues and other Jewish institutions 24 hours a day. Lamenting what he perceived to be a lack of a response from authorities, he added that this kind of a course was the next logical solution.
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