Barcelona’s Chief Rabbi Meir Bar-Hen has urged Jews to move to Israel following the terrorist attacks in Spain on Thursday, calling the country a “hub of Islamist terror for all of Europe” and “a lost place,” The Jerusalem Post reported Friday.
Fourteen people have been confirmed killed in two coordinated attacks, when a man drove a van into the crowd in Las Ramblas, Barcelona and, eight hours later, a similar incident occurred in Cambrils, a coastal town 75 miles to the south. Speaking to JTA, Bar-Hen said that “Jews are not here permanently,” adding that “I tell my congregants: Don’t think we’re here for good. And I encourage them to buy property in Israel. This place is lost. Don’t repeat the mistake of Algerian Jews, of Venezuelan Jews. Better [get out] early than late.”
Emphasizing that his comments were made in a private capacity and not on behalf of the Jewish community in Barcelona, Bar-Hen identified radical Islam and the reluctance of authorities to confront it as part of the problem.
The “radical fringe” of Muslims, the terrorists and their supporters, are “living among us,” he said, warning that “it’s very difficult to get rid of them. They only get stronger.” Bar-Hen added that the problem was not limited to Spain, but had spread across the continent. “Europe is lost,” the rabbi asserted.
Bar-Hen also criticized Spanish authorities and politicians for failing to understand the nature of the Islamist threat. He cited the government’s decision in April to allow Leila Khaled, a Palestinian terrorist convicted for her role in the hijacking of an airplane in 1969, to enter the country for a book festival. This is proof that the authorities “do not understand the nature of terrorism, if they treat it as an action by the disenfranchised,” the rabbi concluded.
Displaying a more confident attitude than Bar-Hen, the Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain said in a statement that they had “full confidence in security forces who work daily to prevent fanatics and radical Muslims from inflicting pain and chaos on our cities.”
Jews across Europe see themselves confronted with rising levels of anti-Semitism which has led to an exodus of the community. In the last two years alone, some 15,000 French Jews have immigrated to Israel, and thousands more have left for Britain, the U.S., Canada, and Australia. In the early 2000s, Marseille’s Jewish population was approximately 80,000; today, that number has dropped to around 60,000.
“There is no future for the Jews in France because of the Arabs, and because of a very anti-Israel position in society, where new anti-Semitism and ancient anti-Semitism converge,” Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, said in an interview with JTA last year.
Meanwhile, Manuel Valls, the French Prime Minister at the time, said that if the Jews leave France, the country “will be judged a failure.” Valls made those remarks in an interview with Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic.
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