An Irish journalist donned a kippa for a day in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, in an effort to experience what it might be like for Jews there, who have been known to suffer from anti-Semitism, The Local reported last week.
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Patrick Reilly said his experiment was inspired by recent anti-Semitic incidents in Malmo, as well as concern expressed by Jews planning visits there.
In the Swedish English-language site, Reilly wrote that "it didn't take long before I got the feeling that I was on display."
Describing a street he had walked down "countless times in my normal garb, without causing as much as a backwards glance," Reilly said that wearing a kippa garnered significant attention. "[I]t was as if I had two heads judging by the number of stares arrowed in my direction," he wrote in The Local.
Throughout the day he was frequently watched, stared at and laughed at, and one man even mouthed "fucking Jew" in his direction.
"As an Irish person abroad I've never felt remotely threatened but wearing the kippa for a few hours was enough to instill feelings of fear. Even when I didn't feel afraid I was made to feel different and unwelcome" Reilly wrote.
Recent surveys have indicated that anti-Semitism has been growing in Europe. One survey showed that Jews in Europe avoid visiting places and wearing symbols that identify them as Jews, for fear-of anti-Semitism. The survey, conducted from September 2012 to September 2013 by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, included more than 5,100 Jews from nine European countries.
Fear of wearing a kippa and other identifiably Jewish symbols was especially strong in Sweden, according to the survey, where 49 percent of the 800 Swedish respondents said they refrained from highlighting their Jewishness. Eighty percent of Swedish respondents said anti-Semitism had increased in the past five years.
In The Local report, Reilly said 60 anti-Semitic hate crimes were registered in Malmo in 2012, none of which resulted in a conviction. This number was almost three times higher than that of previous years, he added.
Recently, there have been efforts to address reports of anti-Semitism, The Local said. "Malmo police and politicians have pledged to better address hate crimes, and hundreds of Malmo residents and other Swedes regularly participate in "Kippah walks" in solidarity with the dwindling local Jewish community, which is estimated to currently stand at 600 people," he said.