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Germans urged to show Jewish solidarity

May 28, 2019

Anti-Semitism Commissioner Felix Klein has called on Germans to don the yarmulke skullcap worn by Jewish men ahead of an anti-Israel protest. The Central Council of Jews has warned about wearing the yarmulke in public.

Men wearing yarmulke in the Bundestag (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/M. Schreiber

Germany's anti-Semitism commissioner has said people should wear Jewish skullcaps in a bid to show solidarity with Jews ahead of an anti-Israel protest on Saturday.

"I call on all citizens of Berlin and across Germany to wear the yarmulke next Saturday if there are new, intolerable attacks targeting Israel and Jews on the occasion of Al-Quds Day in Berlin," Felix Klein said Monday. He also called on people to take part in pro-Israel rallies on the day instead.

Read more: Berlin passes first-ever state plan to combat anti-Semitism

Al-Quds Day is an annual event held at the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, initiated by the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 in support of Palestinians and in opposition to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. Al-Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem, meaning holy.

In previous years, the event has attracted a range of anti-Israel demonstrators including supporters of Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as neo-Nazis and supporters of conspiracy theories.

Rise in attacks

Klein's call comes amid arise in the number of anti-Jewish attacks in Germany. According to official figures, there were 1,646 anti-Semitic crimes in Germany in 2018, a rise of 10% over the previous year.

Last year, a man wearing the Star of David was beaten down and kicked right in the center of Berlin. Some weeks earlier, a similar incident in the capital caused public outrage and sparked a nationwide debate on anti-Semitism when a 19-year-old Syrian attacked an Arab-Israeli and his companion with a belt in broad daylight. Both victims wore yarmulkes in what was reportedly an anti-Semitic attack.

Klein made headlines last week when he warned Jews not to wear the yarmulke in public, citing safety concerns. Sigmount Königsberg, the anti-Semitism commissioner for Berlin's Jewish community, told DW he found Klein's statement lacking.

"I would have expected him to add that he'll do everything in his power to make sure Jews can wear their kippa everywhere in Germany and at all times of the day and night," he said, using another word for yarmulke.

Königsberg hopes that Klein's warning works as an alarm signal to society and that politicians will take action so that "Jewish people can openly wear their kippa in public."

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman said it was the state's responsibility to provide security. "The state must see to it that the free exercise of religion is possible for all... and that anyone can go anywhere in our country in full security wearing a kippa," Steffen Seibert told a press conference.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany has also warned about wearing the yarmulke in public.

jm/cmk (dpa, KNA, AFP)

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