Israeli Prime Minister: "To the Jews of Europe and to the Jews of the world I say that Israel is waiting for you with open arms"
Danish prime minister: "An attack on Denmark's Jews is an attack on everyone"
The door is open, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said to Jews worldwide.
“Extremist Islamic terrorism has struck Europe again, this time in Denmark,” he said Sunday. “We are preparing and calling for the absorption of mass immigration from Europe. To the Jews of Europe and to the Jews of the world I say that Israel is waiting for you with open arms.”
Netanyahu extended the invitation after violent acts of anti-Semitism, most recently the killing of two people in Copenhagen, one at a free-speech forum and the second outside a synagogue.
The Israeli Prime Minister did the same thing in January after terrorists killed 19 people over three days in Paris, including during an attack on a Kosher grocery. Another reminder of anti-Semitism came Monday when it was announced five teens were charged with vandalizing a Jewish cemetery in France.
With occurrences of anti-Semitism putting many in Europe on edge, will Netanyahu’s words resonate with Danish Jews?
Chief Rabbi of Cophenhagen Jan Melchior said no and struck a defiant tone Monday.
“We will not let terror dictate our lives,” he said. “We will not. We will continue living as Jews here in Denmark and everywhere else in the world.”
However, many European Jews are voting for Israel with their feet, according to the website for The Jewish Agency, the liaison group between Israel and Jews worldwide.
Nearly 7,000 people moved from France to Israel in 2014, making France the top country of origin for immigrating Jews for the first time, the TJA website said. That’s up dramatically from 3,400 French Jews in 2013 and 1,900 in 2012, TJA said.
Inquiries by French Jews shot up 300% after the January attacks, TJA said last month in a press release, with 80% of the calls coming from Paris.
“It’s meteoric,” TJA Global Center Director Yossi Leibovitz said. Figures on Danish immigration and actual immigrations in 2015 were not provided.
Overall, 26,500 people immigrated to Israel in 2014, a 32% spike over 2013.
Cyril Berdugo told CNN he grew up in France but left for the United States a few years ago because of increasing violence against Jewish people, from murders to people being beaten in the streets for wearing the Star of David or a yarmulke or “because they are apparently Jews.”
“I told my family anti-Semitism was being impossible in France, it was being an intolerable situation in France,” he said. “I told my parents I would leave so I could express my Judaism in a very free way here in the United States.”
He said his family members stayed in France because they didn’t want to uproot their lives, having lived there for decades.
Jewish citizens are an integral part of the country, French and Danish leaders say.
French President Francois Hollande spoke broadly to French Jews last month at a ceremony marking the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp near the end of World War II, saying, “You, French people of the Jewish faith, your place is here, in your home. France is your country,” according to Reuters.
Danish Prime Helle Thorning-Schmidt, speaking Monday night at a candlelight vigil for the shooting victims attended by an estimated 40,000-plus people, said, “An attack on Denmark’s Jews is an attack on everyone. The Jewish community is an important part of Denmark. We will stand together and continue the everyday life we know. We stand together as Danes.”
The Copenhagen attack had similarities to the Paris attacks.
Both targeted cartoonists – Lars Vilks in Copenhagen and the staff of the satiric Charlie Hebdon magazine in Paris. Both were small terrorist operations that reaped big headlines.
The name of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was invoked both times – by Paris kosher grocery gunman Amedy Coulibaly in a video and by the Copenhagen gunman in a Facebook posting.
Copenhagen’s crisis moment with terrorism occurred Saturday when a gunman opened fire at a free speech forum in Copenhagen, killing one man, before shooting several people outside a synagogue and killing another. The gunman was killed in a shootout with police.
It could have been worse, said Don Rosenberg, a Jewish community leader in Copenhagen.
“The shooter could have gotten into the community center,” he said. “The outcome could have been a massacre I dare not to think about.”
In the days following, two men were charged with being accessories to murder and Vilks, a Swedish cartoonist who attended the forum and escaped unharmed, went into hiding. Vilks, known for his controversial depictions of the Prophet Mohammed, is on an al Qaeda hit list.
Anti-Semitism has increased in Europe, especially since the most recent Gaza conflict and the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Gerard Araud, French ambassador to the United States, told CNN that it’s crucial for France to protect its Jewish citizens.
“It would be a major moral, political, human failure if the French Republic if we are not able to protect our Jewish compatriots,” Araud said. “It’s a major challenge but we’ll do our best to face it.”
Rabbi Bent Lexner, former chief rabbi of Copenhagen, said there’s historical precedent for Netanyahu’s invitation.
“In 1961 Ben-Gurion, the first Israeli prime minister, came to Denmark and said the same thing,” Lexner told CNN. “The chief rabbi went out in the media and said, ‘This is not the way to come here, Prime Minister, and tell people to leave.’ “
People should not move to Israel out of fear, he said.
“I’m a father of three children who have left Denmark and are living and have establishing families in Israel,” he said. “They did not leave Denmark because they were afraid. They went to Israel because they wanted to live in Israel. And I want those people who come to Israel, they should come to Israel because they want to go, not because they’re afraid to be in another European country.”
CNN’s Nic Robertson contributed to this report.