Rivlin Rebukes Germany's 'Surrender to anti-Semitism' in Skullcap Warning

'This capitulation shows that Jews are not safe, again, on German soil,' says Israeli president after Germany's anti-Semitism commissioner recommending German Jews not wear kippas in public

Meeting of President Reuven Rivlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Jerusalem, October 4, 2018.
Amos Ben Gershom / GPO

President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday criticized Germany's anti-Semitism commissioner's recent comments recommending that Jews not wear skullcaps in public, saying Israel cherishes Germany's commitment to its Jewish populations, but calling the move "a surrender to anti-Semitism."

On Saturday, Felix Klein told reporters he could "no longer recommend Jews wear a kippa at every time and place in Germany," adding that his opinion on the matter has changed "following the ongoing brutalization in German society." 

There are currently about 100,000 Jews living in Germany.

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According to Rivlin, "This capitulation shows that Jews are not safe, again, on German soil. We will never give in, we won't lower our gaze and we won't react with defeatism in the face of German anti-Semitism. We expect and demand that our allies respond in kind."

The president added that "The responsibility for the peace, safety and freedom of the Jewish population of Germany is on the shoulders of the government and law enforcement agencies of Germany."

Last year, it was the head of the Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, who called on Jews visiting large cosmopolitan cities to remove their skullcaps. Three years prior, Schuster also cautioned against wearing a kippa in areas with large Muslim populations.

At the time, Schuster's comments drew sharp criticism from religious leaders in Israel, sparking a debate around the issue. Israel's chief rabbi, David Lau, called upon Jews not to hide their kippas in public, saying that the skullcaps are a Jewish symbol they should "continue to bear proudly."

Last April, Germans of various faiths donned skullcaps and took to the streets to protest an anti-Semitic attack in Berlin, during which two young men wearing kippas were assaulted in an upscale neighborhood of the German capital.

The fact that the warning now comes from the German government highlights the gravity of the situation in the country. Earlier this month, German security officials said the number of anti-Semitic and anti-foreigner incidents rose in the country over the past year, despite an overall fall in politically-motivated crimes.

According to data from the German Federal Ministry of the Interior, there has been a rise of 20 percent in anti-Semitic crimes in the country. Extreme right-wing activists in Germany committed 90 percent of the 1,800 incidents that took place in 2018.

The data indicated that xenophobic incidents in the country rose by 19.7 percent to 7,701, amid an overall uptick in hate crimes.