At events held in Brussels, Belgium on September 24 and 25 showcasing diversity and co-existence in Israel, representatives from diverse communities that form the Israeli multi-cultural society spoke of their connection to Israel and the shining example of co-existence that it is. The events were organized by the Belgian Friends of Israel and and EIPA (European Israel Public Affairs).
Speakers included Shadi Khalloul - an Aramean Christian;,Sara Zoabi - an Arab-Israeli Muslim and Riad Hassoun - a Druze from Dalyiat Al-Karmel.
Representing StandWithUs Israel was Director of Operations Ilana Sherrington-Hoffman, who explained the story of the Jewish people through their connection to Israel, their history of persecution , their perseverance and finally, their return to their ancestral homeland. Her family's history is an example - they suffered for their Jewish heritage in Poland, Spain and Iraq - and finally, they immigrated to Israel.
Combatting antisemitism in Belgium Ilana Sherrington-Hoffman also spoke to a packed auditorium of hundreds of students and community members - Jewish, Muslims and Christians - about the alarming rise of antisemitism in Belgium.
This is not a minor issue: the Belgian Centre for Equal Opportunities reports handling 101 cases of antisemitism in 2018alone – vandalism, Holocaust denial and verbal abuse, and a rise in conspiracy theories and Nazi rhetoric.
In March of 2019, in a street celebration in the city of Aalst, a carnival float paraded giant puppets of Orthodox Jews and a rat atop money bags. Belgian prosecutors dropped a case against a cafe owner who welcomed dogs, but not Jews. Belgian journalist Dimitri Verhulst wrote a column in De Morgen joking about Jews’ noses and accusing Israelis of stealing Palestinian land.
She urged the audience that, if they oppose antisemitism, believe in co-existence, and dream of a peaceful future, to stand up for Israel when there are attempts to bring it down, and instead advocate for dialogue, respect and cooperation.