TEL AVIV – Belgian authorities have asked local Jewish communities to cancel celebrations of the Jewish festival of Purim and stay in their homes following Tuesday’s attacks in Brussels, the Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported.
Two large Purim events in the capital were cancelled, and Jewish schools and institutions in both Brussels and Antwerp, where there are large Jewish communities, have been shut down.
Police have requested that members of the community do not don masks traditionally worn on the festival and also banned children from carrying toy weapons as part of their costumes.
Rabbi Menachem Margolin, the Israel-born head of the European Jewish Association lobby group, whose office is right next door to the Molenbeek metro station where one of the bombings took place, said that schools have been evacuated due to the fear of additional attacks and people are staying indoors.
“We were really not surprised by everything that’s going on in the city. It was only a matter of time before such an attack happened,” said Rabbi Margolin.
“The fact that the terrorist from Brussels was able to hide in the city for several months means there was someone helping him, which is why I believe these were not the last attacks we’ll be seeing here. The routine right now is difficult. There’s a feeling of insecurity. The holiday events are being canceled and we’re listening to the security forces,” he added.
Police also asked that fireworks or any devices that make a loud banging noise not be used on Purim.
The Jewish Crisis Management Team of Antwerp urged the community to comply with the guidelines set by the police and declared the next three days to be days of mourning in which celebrations and public feasting are strictly forbidden.
The irony is that, according to Megillat Esther, the Jewish text read on Purim, the protagonist Esther fasted for three days before defeating the villain Haman, thwarting his plans to destroy the Jewish people. To this day, observant Jews fast on the day before Purim.
At least two local Jews were hurt in the attack, the Jewish EMT organization, Hatzalah, reported.
Rabbi Margolin, who had previously called on European governments to allow Jews to carry firearms for self-defense following the Paris attacks Paris, said that he didn’t believe Tuesday’s attacks were anti-Semitic in nature.
“The attacks were not directed at Jews but against all the citizens of Europe who are getting used to a new reality,” he said.