Seeing the armed police made us want to cry, say Spanish Jews

Letter from Barcelona


The sun is casting long shadows over Valldoreix, a sleepy village surrounded by forests, 20km from Barcelona.

Next to Hatikva, one of Spain's three Jewish schools, a large olive tree rustles in the wind. The streets are empty.

The picture of serenity is punctured: policemen with machine guns walk into view.

"This special operation started three weeks ago, and the first day you see it you want to cry. You feel anger and impotence," said Marc Heyman, president of the Parents Association of Hatikva and a father of three.

"It is heartbreaking to leave your three children there in this situation."

Mr Heyman, who was born in Venezuela but lived in Barcelona for 20 years, added: "The visual impact of seeing big police vans outside the school with armed policemen is tremendous… this is happening now to all the Jewish centres around Europe."

The guards, who work with the school's own private security outfit, are members of a special Catalan police unit.

Mr Heyman said: "We have a kind of silent deal: the school protects us and we trust the way they do that. The less we know, the better we handle everything. It is also the way to avoid becoming paranoid.

"The school is like a bunker, impenetrable, but even as such, it is an extremely worrying situation."

The director of Hatikva, Dr Avital Livneh, said the community had not experienced any direct threats, and that the Catalan regional government had decided to provide the extra security measures in the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks.

Victor Sorenssen, director of the Israeli Community of Barcelona, commented: "Now, since the Paris attacks, the situation has changed. If we gave up our normal lives, we would be agreeing that the terrorists, who want to spread fear, are right."

Although Spain's national terror alert - as in the UK - is at a high level, the other two Jewish schools in Spain, the Ibn Gabirol School, in Madrid, and the Sephardic School David Melul, in Melilla, have not been offered extra state protection.

Mr Heyman said: "I will not walk through my town with a kippah on my head. I am sure no one would physically attack me but I know people would look at me with condescension and I do not want that. I do not show my Jewry."

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