Prominent Israeli-Danish Rabbi: Answer to Terror Is to Fight It Wherever It Is

Rabbi Michael Melchior, who traces his family back 350 years in Denmark, slams Israeli leaders for calling on Danish Jews to immigrate after deadly attacks.

Ofer Vaknin

Israel’s most prominent Danish Jew expressed shock today at the terror attack that killed a Jewish security guard outside a Copenhagen synagogue on Saturday night.

“Unfortunately, when terror comes closer to you, it hits stronger and feels more terrible,” said Rabbi Michael Melchior, a former politician whose brother is the executive director of the Danish Jewish community and whose son its chief rabbi. Melchior, who was chief rabbi of Norway before immigrating to Israel in 1986, traces his family back 350 years in Denmark.

Known for his moderate political views, Melchior criticized government leaders for responding to Sunday's terror attack with calls for Danish Jews to immigrate to Israel. “I don’t like when this is the automatic reaction from Israeli politicians,” he told Haaretz. “I think it is not an appropriate reaction. We have a prime minister who says Israel is about to come under an attack of terrible dimensions, and at the same time says that everyone should run away from there to come here. I don’t even want to go into this way of thinking. I think that the answer to terror is to fight it wherever it is.”

Melchior noted that this was the worst attack against Jews on Danish soil since 1985, when the same Copenhagen synagogue was targeted in a bombing that left seven people injured.

He said Danish Jews with whom he had spoken on Sunday had expressed “shock, sadness and grief” at the shooting outside the Great Synagogue. “More than any other Jewish community in Europe, the Jewish community of Denmark was successful in integrating with its surroundings,” he said. “So now the Jews are asking themselves how do to continue with their Jewish life without isolating themselves into a ghetto.”

Melchior first entered Israeli political life as a member of the moderate religious party Meimad, which eventually merged with Labor. Under the government formed by Labor leader Ehud Barak in 1999, he served as minister of social and Diaspora affairs. Since leaving politics, he has been active in promoting interfaith coexistence.

Today, he published a joint statement with Sheikh Abdullah Nimer Darwish, the founder of the Islamic Movement in Israel, condemning the terror attack in Copenhagen. "We stress, that only through cooperative religious efforts will we isolate the perpetrators and eradicate religious hate," the statement said. Melchior and Darwish are the founders of Religious Peace Initiative, an organization that works with Jewish and Muslim religious leaders to promote peace.