After Brussels attacks, Belgian Jews scale down Purim festivities

A memorial for the victims of Tuesday's Brussels attacks. Credit: Miguel Discart via Wikimedia Commons.

(Israel Hayom/Exclusive to The Brussels Jewish community is scaling down celebrations for the Purim holiday on Wednesday and Thursday as Belgium recovers from Tuesday’s bombing attacks that killed 34 people. The Islamic State terror group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

“We are going have sad days during Purim, without any celebrations,” Brussels resident Shimon Bartoloz told Israel Hayom. “These are definitely dark days for us, and we are very concerned walking the streets. We will have modest gatherings inside our homes [to mark Purim].”

After the attacks, the Belgian Jewish community set up a sort of situation room, where the community and security leaders meet to receive safety instructions, which they then pass on to Jewish citizens in the country.

Two Belgian Jews were lightly wounded in Tuesday’s blasts and were taken to the local hospital for treatment. Belgian security officials reached out to Jewish community leaders, asking them to keep any Purim festivities small.

“There was supposed to be a big Purim party with 1,000 guests who would read the Scroll of Esther together, but instead, there will only be small events,” said Rabbi Menachem Margolin, head of the European Jewish Association and a Brussels resident. “Preparedness has gone up a level.”

Margolin added that since there are concerns about potential future attacks, the local Jewish community “is not taking unnecessary risks.”

Rabbi Levi Matusof, the European Union’s director of Jewish public affairs, passes by the site of Tuesday’s Brussels Metro bombing on a regular basis. 

“Luckily, I was called to Paris from Brussels for work at the last minute on [Sunday] night, and I managed to avoid the disaster,” he said.

Matusof added, “The Jewish community is shocked about these events, but also realistic [about the situation]. Still, despite the talk and concern, you are never really prepared for something like this, especially when it can happen anywhere.”

Posted on March 23, 2016 .