Jewish school closures on Friday as safety fears hit Europe | #schoolsaftey

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Some Jewish schools in Europe were shut on Friday over fears of anti-Semitic violence linked to the conflict in Gaza.

Several schools closed in London despite UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak offering £3 million ($3.66 million) for extra guards.

One head teacher in London said her girls’ school was closing because of the “risk of violence on the streets”, after Hamas supporters called for protests on Friday.

A rabbi at a second school in London told parents there was “no specific threat” but that “we need to do what is best for our precious children”.

Three schools were reportedly closed in Amsterdam, with a Jewish group saying there had been “no improvement” in security despite discussions with Dutch authorities.

Asked about the school closures, Britain’s Defence Secretary Grant Shapps said it was understandable for people to be “very concerned … when you hear the language coming out from some of these organisations and their supporters”.

“This is really to do with the security of the community, and the Jewish community itself taking decisions. The government has stepped in with further money in order to work with the community,” he told Sky News.

The £3 million in aid to the Community Security Trust, a charity for British Jews, is meant to fund additional guards at synagogues and schools after dozens of anti-Semitic incidents in recent days.

The trust said Jewish people faced a “difficult and worrying time” but sought to ease fears of violence on Friday, saying Hamas’s call for protests was mainly aimed at Middle East countries.

“It is possible that the Hamas call will lead to yet more anti-Semitism, but the call itself is not sufficient cause for British Jews to hide away in fear this Friday,” the CST said.

Supporters of both sides have held protests in Europe since Israel was attacked by Hamas and began a retaliatory military campaign in Gaza.

Israeli and Palestinian demonstrations across Europe – in pictures

In Germany, the Central Council of Jews said there was a risk of lone actors carrying out threats after calls to violence on social media linked to the unfolding conflict.

Jewish schools will decide on “necessary measures” after discussions with local security forces, it said.

Police in France used tear gas to break up a protest after pro-Palestinian rallies in the country were banned. Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said such demonstrations were “likely to generate disturbances to public order”.

London’s Metropolitan Police stopped short of such a ban, telling the Jewish community in a letter that it could not “interpret support for the Palestinian cause more broadly as automatically being support for Hamas”.

It said officers would step in when they see “abuse or intimidation that is religiously motivated” or when people directly express support for Hamas or Hezbollah, which are designated as terrorist organisations in the UK.

Updated: October 13, 2023, 8:35 AM

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