Israel-Gaza attacks: Parents scared as Jewish schools’ security increases | #schoolsaftey

  • By Gem O’Reilly and Marie Jackson
  • BBC News

Image caption,

James Cleverly said the safety of the UK’s Jewish community was an “absolute priority”

Jewish schools have stepped up security as concerns grow about a possible rise in antisemitism directed at children.

Patrols have increased around some schools in London and Manchester, with parents telling the BBC they are “scared” for their children’s safety.

Some pupils have been told blazers are optional in public places so they cannot be easily identified as Jewish.

Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said the safety of the UK’s Jewish community was an “absolute priority”.

“History has shown us that Jews in the UK are targeted in response to actions in the Middle East, completely inappropriately so,” he told the BBC.

Three days after Hamas launched a murderous assault on Israel, more than 1,000 people have died on the Israel-side. Retaliatory strikes on Gaza have killed 830.

Pupils at the Jewish Free School in Kenton, north London, have been told there will be no after-school detentions and wearing a blazer with the school’s logo is optional.

“The most important thing is to ensure the safe passage of students between home and school and to make sure that this school is set up to care for our children during the school day,” headteacher David Moody said in an email to parents.

Suzi, whose 14-year-old son attends the school, said: “The waves that are rippling through go beyond the school to the community.

“As a parent it’s very hard because you want to protect your children, both emotionally and physically.”

“He was walking the same corridors as her,” said Suzi, whose full name we are not using.

She said that “sadly”, as a Jewish community, they were used to strict security in communal places.

“This is just stepping up on another level because of what has happened. We are all in a state of shock and mourning,” she added.

In Manchester, at another Jewish school, attendance has dropped off and there have been increased police patrols.

John Dalziel, headteacher at King David School, said police had been on site on Tuesday morning to try to reassure pupils and parents.

He is also advising students to consider taking off blazers or covering the crest on their uniform when in public.

He said he has told pupils to be proud of who they are and to report any antisemitic attacks.

Image caption,

Candles were lit at a Downing Street vigil on Monday evening

Another mum, Michal, who has three children at Broughton Jewish Cassel Fox Primary School in Salford, said patrols in her area have increased.

“They have put extra security in place, cancelled school trips and they’re making sure all doors are locked during the day,” she said.

“The most terrifying thing about it is there are people on the streets of Manchester who are actively celebrating the death of Jewish people.”

Michal, whose surname we are not using, said despite the school doing its best to protect the children, she feared for their safety.

The heightened security is being put in place by local police with help from the Community Security Trust, a charity which helps Jewish people in the UK with security and antisemitism.

It said it was working with the government to help co-ordinate and plan security, with a special focus on schools.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has insisted the government was doing everything it could to keep the UK’s Jewish community safe.

Image caption,

Thousands of pro-Palestinian demonstrators gathered near the Israeli Embassy in London

On Tuesday, he said he wanted to remind everyone that Hamas was a proscribed terror organisation and anyone found supporting them would be held to account.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has written to police chiefs in England and Wales urging them to use the “full force of the law” against shows of support for Hamas or attempts to intimidate the UK’s Jewish community.

She wrote: “Behaviours that are legitimate in some circumstances, for example the waving of a Palestinian flag, may not be legitimate such as when intended to glorify acts of terrorism.

“Nor is it acceptable to drive through Jewish neighbourhoods, or single out Jewish members of the public, to aggressively chant or wave pro-Palestinian symbols at,” she added.

On Monday, three people were arrested following a pro-Palestinian demonstration near the Israeli embassy in Kensington, west London.

Around the same time, British Jews gathered in Downing Street for a vigil to light candles for the victims and pray for lost loved ones and those held captive.

More on Hamas-Israel attacks

In the predominantly Jewish area of Golders Green, north London, “Free Palestine” graffiti daubed on bridges is being investigated.

“No-one should be subjected to violence or harassment because of who they are,” British Transport Police said.

In the BBC interview, the foreign secretary urged UK nationals who wanted to leave Israel to use commercial transport in the first instance, as he confirmed that no UK government-facilitated evacuation was under way yet.

Asked whether that policy might change, Mr Cleverly said things were “very fast moving” and he would not “speculate as to what might happen in the future”.

He said the situation in Israel was unlike many other consular issues because of the “very, very large number of British-Israeli nationals”, many of whom regard Israel as their permanent home or are serving in the military.

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