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Following Anti-Semitic Attacks in Holland, Dutch Jews Say ‘Thank You’

Following Anti-Semitic Attacks in Holland, Dutch Jews Say ‘Thank You’

Chanukah was just the right time to recognize the community’s ‘lights’

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People of all ages from across Amsterdam celebrated Chanukah at a Sunday-night menorah-lighting that expressed appreciation for the city’s police force and Dutch military for their work in keeping the Jewish community safe. (Photo: DPHOTO/Dirk P.H. Spits)
People of all ages from across Amsterdam celebrated Chanukah at a Sunday-night menorah-lighting that expressed appreciation for the city’s police force and Dutch military for their work in keeping the Jewish community safe. (Photo: DPHOTO/Dirk P.H. Spits)

On a recent trip to London, Dutch Rabbi Yanki Jacobs pointed out a Jewish school to his 5-year-old daughter, Rachel. Her English cousins study there, and she had asked whether they could drive by so she could catch a glimpse of it.

“That can’t be a Jewish school,” the little girl responded. “Where are the soldiers?”

Growing up in Amsterdam, Rachel, her classmates and Jewish children of all ages attend schools guarded by armed police and military, provided by the government. Synagogues and Jewish community offices are protected as well. It’s just a part of contemporary life for Jews in the Netherlands.

“They stand there day after day, and we can sometimes take their service for granted,” says Jacobs, who co-directs Chabad-Lubavitch Amsterdam South with his wife, Esty. “Which is why we wanted to do something simply to thank them.”

On Sunday evening, at a Chanukah menorah-lighting held following a local Maccabi youth event, Jewish leaders and community members from across the city joined Jacobs in celebrating the holiday, and thanking members of Amsterdam’s police and the Dutch military for their work in keeping the community safe.

The public event took on special significance, taking place less than two weeks after a Palestinian smashed the windows of a local kosher restaurant, breaking through the front door. The restaurant was empty at the time, and no one was injured. Police apprehended the attacker within seconds of his actions.

Amsterdam Mayor Jozias van Aartsen, left, speaks to the crowd just weeks after a violent incident rattled the community. (Photo: DPHOTO/Dirk P.H. Spits)
Amsterdam Mayor Jozias van Aartsen, left, speaks to the crowd just weeks after a violent incident rattled the community. (Photo: DPHOTO/Dirk P.H. Spits)
Brightening the night with the Chanukah lights. (Photo: DPHOTO/Dirk P.H. Spits)
Brightening the night with the Chanukah lights. (Photo: DPHOTO/Dirk P.H. Spits)

Accepting the community’s appreciation on behalf of police and the armed forces, respectively, were Amsterdam Chief of Police Pieter Jaap van Aalbersberg and commander of the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee Lt. Gen. Harry van den Brink. Children from two local Jewish schools presented them with inscribed crystal menorahs.

The Chanukah program at Scheldeplein square near the massive Rai convention center was joined by Deputy Prime Minister Carola Schouten, Minister of Justice Ferdinand Grapperhaus and Amsterdam Mayor Jozias van Aartsen.

“We will never accept intolerance,” Schouten announced to the crowd. “A little boy should never be forced to explain to his friends why he is Jewish or why he supports Israel.”

“We will not give an inch to anti-Semitic violence,” added Grapperhaus.

The Band of the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (one of six military bands of the Kingdom of the Netherlands) specially prepared and performed “Maoz Tzur,” a traditional Chanukah song. The Royal Marechaussee are charged with securing the Jewish community centers.

Those gathered also heard from Rabbi Yitzchak Vorst, senior Chabad emissary in the country.

Rabbi Yanki Jacobs, left, looks on as children from a Jewish school present inscribed crystal menorahs to members of security forces. (Photo: DPHOTO/Dirk P.H. Spits)
Rabbi Yanki Jacobs, left, looks on as children from a Jewish school present inscribed crystal menorahs to members of security forces. (Photo: DPHOTO/Dirk P.H. Spits)

Event Drew National Attention

The event drew national attention in the Netherlands and was covered by popular news channel NOS Journaal, the Nieuwsuur AT5 channel and print publications Telegraaf, Parool and AD. Additionally, that evening #Chanuka was trending on Twitter in Holland.

Jacobs does not deny that the Dutch Jewish community faces real issues of anti-Semitism—as do communities across Europe—yet he remains thankful for the young men and women in Dutch uniform who stand guard each day through cold and heat, rain and snow, to ensure that Jewish children can be educated as Jews.

Their duties allow the community to continue to function, including holding a massive menorah-lighting in a central area of Amsterdam (which also had a police and military presence).

“Sometimes,” emphasizes the rabbi, “it’s important just to say ‘thank you.’”

Amsterdam Chief of Police Pieter Jaap van Aalbersberg (Photo: DPHOTO/Dirk P.H. Spits)
Amsterdam Chief of Police Pieter Jaap van Aalbersberg (Photo: DPHOTO/Dirk P.H. Spits)
Royal Netherlands Marechaussee Lt. Gen. Harry van den Brink (Photo: DPHOTO/Dirk P.H. Spits)
Royal Netherlands Marechaussee Lt. Gen. Harry van den Brink (Photo: DPHOTO/Dirk P.H. Spits)
Minister of Justice Ferdinand Grapperhaus (Photo: DPHOTO/Dirk P.H. Spits)
Minister of Justice Ferdinand Grapperhaus (Photo: DPHOTO/Dirk P.H. Spits)
Said Deputy Prime Minister Carola Schouten: “We will never accept intolerance.” (Photo: DPHOTO/Dirk P.H. Spits)
Said Deputy Prime Minister Carola Schouten: “We will never accept intolerance.” (Photo: DPHOTO/Dirk P.H. Spits)


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