|Malmo's one and only synagogue [Image Source]|
A police spokesperson is careful: “There as been an explosion. Something has detonated – we are certain of that” but not much more by way of detail. Witnesses report that blasts were heard some blocks away.
Malmo's 1,500 person Jewish community is under siege. As it happens, the Jewish Chronicle in London published a worrying report yesterday, prior to this morning's bombing. The headline captures the sense well: "Fear stalks the streets of Malmo and council has no answer". Excerpts:
“You don’t wear a kippah in this city. That would be suicide,” said the head of Malmo’s voluntary security team guarding the gates of the city’s Jewish cemetery.A taste of what goes on inside the Rosengard nieghbourhood can be had from watching the Israeli television series "Allah Islam". We wrote about it this past week: "23-Sep-12: A new TV series that challenges how you think about Europe's Moslems". Some of its most disturbing interviews were conducted in Malmo, a city undergoing wrenching change of a kind that is becoming more common in other parts of Europe.
The security service was established in the wake of a peace demonstration by the Jewish community after the 2008-2009 Gaza war in which the crowd was firebombed and a Holocaust survivor assaulted.
The past 70 years have seen a dramatic reversal of fortunes for Jews in Sweden’s third-largest city.
In 1943, thousands of Jews were smuggled to Malmo out of Nazi-occupied Denmark on kayaks, ferries and fishing boats. Today, the city’s Jewish population of around 1,500 are regularly met with cries of “Heil Hitler” and “f**king Jews” as they walk the streets — and over the past ten years they have slowly but steadily been leaving for Stockholm, Israel and the US. “When young Jews leave Malmo now, they don’t come back,” said Fred Kahn, Chairman of the Board of Malmo’s Jewish community.
“The problems for us derive from the Muslims in the city,” said the security head, who did not wish to be named.
Roughly a fifth of Malmo’s population of 300,000 are Muslim immigrants, a large proportion of which are Palestinian. Many live hived off in Rosengard, a district blighted by gang wars and drug crime.
It is a sign of how bad things have got in Malmo that British businessman and philanthropist Martin Stern decided to help fund a visit to Malmo by Copenhagen’s Jewish community to show solidarity with the Jews on the other side of the Oresund Strait.
“Three years ago I spoke to Malmo’s Rabbi Kesselman and he told me the situation was dire,” said Mr Stern. “The situation is terribly dangerous and they have no money to do anything about it.”
"Mayor Reepalu [some background here] is undoubtedly one of the problems facing Malmo’s Jews. He has said that if Jews want to avoid being attacked they should denounce Israel’s policies, and in March he told a Swedish magazine that the far-right Sweden Democrat party had “infiltrated the Jewish community in order to push its hatred of Muslims”.There's additional background at "Losing Malmo", a August 2011 essay by Andrew McCarthy over at the Family Security Matters blog.
Feelings about Reepalu are running high. Mr Niemann said: “Thank god he wasn’t mayor of Malmo in 1943 because had he been, we wouldn’t be here.”
Despite repeated requests for information, Malmo City Council refused to say whether or not it had a policy to tackle the situation and its head of integration, Jesper Theander, would not offer any comment.
For Rabbi Kesselman, and many others, official indifference is merely a symptom of the fact that the Muslims are now a key electoral constituency for the mayor. “This is about demographics, and the problem we have here will happen soon in other cities in Europe,” said Rabbi Kesselman.
Abandoned by the council, the community have taken matters — peacefully — into their own hands. Psychologist Yehoshua Kaufman came up with the idea of “kippah walks” for Jews to join together and stroll through the centre of the city wearing kippot, which has become a monthly event.
“It is much more dangerous to continue being afraid and hide away than confront your fear,” said Mr Kaufman. [More]
No doubt that kippah walks are nice. But being genuinely safe and secure in your home town would be nicer.