BRUSSELS – The Belgian Jewish Museum will reopen in 7-10 days for the first time since a gunman killed four people there in late May, museum President Philippe Blondin told Israeli journalists on Tuesday.
Police will return the keys to the museum’s front entrance, still blocked by police tape and a small sea of memorial candles and decaying flowers, on Wednesday, Blondin said, but the management will still need at least a week to properly clean the building and prepare some sort of memorial to the victims.
He also wants to give the traumatized, mostly-volunteer museum staff, more time to deal with the events and meet with psychologists.
On Saturday May 24, a lone gunman entered the museum and opened fire, killing an Israeli couple, Emanuel and Miriam Riva, museum employee Alexandre Strens and volunteer Dominique Sabrier.
French police are holding French national Mehdi Nemmouche, 29, in custody in Marseille on suspicion for the shooting.
Blondin admitted that the museum, with its limited funding, could not afford necessary security, but had requested further security from Belgian authorities to no avail.
“I knew that our system of security was very light, and for a Jewish museum it was, in a way, too light.” he said, noting that a proper security budget would eclipse the museum’s annual budget.
“You take a risk or you close the Jewish museum. So my choice and the choice of the people before me was education, education, education.”
Although the museum “never, never, never” received threats, he said, he hoped to obtain a greater police presence or security assistance from authorities.
“They said, ‘I’m sorry but, we can’t afford it,’” Blondin said. “I think the authorities have a very, very heavy burden, and I hope they will take responsibility.”
Blondin said he believes the attack was inspired by more than simple hatred of Jews, which he agrees has been on the rise.
“Those people want to stop our way of living, want to stop our living together, they want to stop our culture, and everything we built up over two, three thousand years,” he said. “It’s a terrorist not anti-Semitic act, it’s much more.”
Asked what might account for the change in attitudes toward Jews, Blondin pointed to the poor economic situation in Europe and anger toward Israel over its political situation. “People are complaining, and if they are complaining, why not the Jews?” “We’ve got Judeophobia and anti-Zionism. They are two different things working together,” he said. “One is pushing the other.”
“We’ve got, by all means, the situation in Israel, which is a difficult situation, a difficult position, and people mix them all together,” he added.