In an interview with Israeli radio station 103.fm on Monday, the Chief Rabbi of Brussels, Avraham Gigi, gave his views on the future of Belgium’s Jews and European Jewry.
“There is a sense of fear in the streets,” he said. “The Belgians understand that they, too, are targets of terror. Jews now pray in their homes (instead of in synagogues) and some of them are planning on emigrating.”
“Since Shabbat the city has been paralysed. The synagogues were closed, something which has not happened since World War II. People are praying alone or are holding small minyanim (small prayer groups) at private homes. Schools and theaters are closed as are most large stores and public events are not permitted.”
According to Rabbi Gigi, Brussel’s Jews now “live in fear, and wait for instructions from the police or the government.”
His comments come after a three day, nation-wide, lock down as fear of terrorism increases.
He continued, “there are 25,000 Jews in Brussels. 18,000 in Antwerp and the rest live in smaller places. There has been aliyah to Israel, as well as emigration to Canada and the US…there is no future for Jews in Europe. There is also an economic recession that pushes young people to leave Belgium to go to Israel or to go to other places.”
Regarding the current situation, Rabbi Gigi has a pragmatic, level-headed approach. For Belgians, he believes, the terrorist attacks have been a wake-up call.
“As Jews, we already know the situation and know what terrorists are like,” he noted. “Until today, the Belgians thought that terrorism threatens only the Jews or the police, [but now they] understand that [any] Belgian can be a terror target. Anyone and everyone can be a victim of jihadists.”
Although he is a staunch proponent of aliyah, Rabbi Gigi adds that it must have the proper motivation. Europe’s Jews, he says, “should not make aliyah out of fear, because this will result in a poor absorption experience, a feeling that something was left behind will always remain. People should make aliya out of a love for Israel.”