In Germany’s largest Jewish event since before World War II, over 2,000 men and women of all faiths marched in Berlin with yarmulkes to show their solidarity with the Jewish community, after a 21-year-old wearing a yarmulke was attacked in Berlin last week. Even Muslim women placed yarmulkes on top of their head coverings.
Smaller rallies took place as well and 6,000 yarmulkes were distributed in five Berlin parks. The popular German daily Tagesspiegel printed a blue and white yarmulke for readers to cut out and use.
Tweeting a picture of himself wearing a yarmulke, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote, “If young people feel threatened because they have a yarmulke, we must show them that they are not alone.”
Hundreds participated in smaller demonstrations in Cologne, Potsdam and Magdeburg. A tiny rally in Berlin’s Muslim-dense Neukolln neighborhood halted after 15 minutes when protesters spat at participants, called them terrorists and snatched away an Israeli flag.
President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Josef Schuster said that while wearing yarmulkes was correct in principle, he advised Jews to avoid wearing yarmulkes in large German cities to avoid anti-Semitism.
French parliamentarian Meyer Habib said similarly, “I say people should be careful. There are children in the street. You cannot say, ‘Go with a yarmulke,‘ one of them might get killed.”
Aviv Zonabend, Jewish member of Toulouse council agreed, telling an Israeli news outlet that yarmulkes should be removed in all of Europe.
Toulouse Mayor Jean-Luc Moudenc threatened to fire Zonabend for adding, in Hebrew, that there are “very many, too many” Arabs in the city. Zonabend explained that he was unfamiliar with Hebrew. He had not meant Arabs whom he had nothing against, he said, but only Islamists.
In similar vein, Felix Klein, Germany’s newly appointed special envoy and anti-Semitism commissioner to the Jewish community, said, “While Germany is generally safe for Jews, Jewish men should be careful before donning a yarmulke in public,” warning, “In principle, yes. But not always.”
Many disagreed, saying that surrendering to threats is exactly what anti-Semites want.
According to recent surveys, 25% to 40% of Europe’s Jews already avoid publicly wearing yarmulkes, Mogen Dovid chains or anything else that identifies them as Jewish.