Will UAE be safer and more tolerant for Jews than most of Europe?

It should be normal to be Jewish: to celebrate Hanukkah, wear a kippah, do Jewish things and buy kosher food, if one so desires.

Israeli singer Omer Adam and President of the Jewish community in Dubai, Solly Wolf, on Simchat Torah 2020 (photo credit: COURTESY OF OFER MENACHEM COMMUNICATIONS AND PUBLIC RELATIONS)
Israeli singer Omer Adam and President of the Jewish community in Dubai, Solly Wolf, on Simchat Torah 2020
Hanukkah celebrations in Dubai last week and the national efforts to support tolerance and coexistence in the United Arab Emirates have created a reality in which Jews are more welcomed and safe in the UAE than in Europe.
Many friends and contacts I have spoken to say they were surprised by the feeling walking around the Emirates’ most populous city over the last week wearing a kippah, something they would be hesitant to do in many places in Europe.  
This is a testament to the reality of most Western democracies: It’s dangerous to be a Jew in Europe. Jewish schools are attacked and Jews with a kippah are assaulted. It happens almost every day throughout Western Europe and the US, where in some places half of all religious hate crimes target Jews.
Today, Jews are safer in the UAE than in most European countries and most American states. We measure antisemitism in most Western countries by how many thousands of attacks there are – that’s the reality. In most European countries, intolerance towards Jews is widespread, and growing.  
This is evident on any visit to a synagogue or Jewish school in European countries. I have been to most of these countries over the last twenty years. I’ll never forget going to a kosher coffee shop near Oranienburger Strasse in Berlin. It was near the beautiful New Synagogue in that part of the German capital, a shul burned down during the Nazi era. Outside the coffee shop there were two policemen to guard against attacks. There were no people inside having coffee.
To be a Jew in Berlin, I wondered at the time, meant that if I go to a kosher coffee shop, there will have to be police guarding it. This is not “protection” but rather an illustration of the levels of hate directed at Jews.
That one cannot just buy kosher food without being attacked, in a country that built gas chambers not so long ago to kill six million Jews, shows how much hatred there is.
IN 2015, the Jewish Hypercacher supermarket in Paris was attacked by terrorists. It followed the brutal murders at a Jewish school in Toulouse in 2012 by a religious extremist. I’ve been to visit synagogues across Europe, and every time I go, I notice how they are protected by rings of security.
But this isn’t security. People shouldn’t have to pray behind armies of police and soldiers with assault rifles. When we talk about a decline or increase in antisemitic attacks in Europe, we count them in the thousands. In 2018, for instance, there were 1,652 antisemitic incidents in the UK.  
The norm should be zero antisemitic attacks. Why did Europe, which had two thousand years of Jew hatred, not stop being antisemitic after the Holocaust? Is it so hard to stop purveyors of evil attacking Jews, burning synagogues, spraying swastikas on graves and assaulting Jews who wear a kippah?
And yet, this is the reality.
A person has to think twice before wearing a kippah in most countries in Europe – it’s risky. One could be spat on, shouted at, randomly attacked or even murdered.
Swastikas are often found painted in cemeteries, and other types of vandalism targets Jewish sites. For a continent that lectures the world about human rights, the fact that Jews often have to go to pray behind armed guards and that their graveyards are often attacked, holds up a mirror to the reality of Europe.
The lip service that politicians pay about these acts, the “solidarity” they express, rings hollow when one knows that a Jewish child going to a Jewish school has to do so with armed guards. That’s not normal, but it has become normal. The armed guards at my synagogue for the High Holy Days in Arizona struck me as normal – until I went to places where Jews could be themselves without the police and soldiers outside the synagogue.  
One of my first experiences being at a synagogue without armed guards was in Hungary at the Dohany Street Synagogue. Later, I went to synagogues in Russia and Ukraine and was surprised by the difference between those places and what I’d seen in Western Europe. Yet, we were told that Eastern Europe was antisemitic. But Jewish schools are not attacked, and kosher delis are not besieged by gunmen.
NOW, a new embrace of Jews appears to be happening in the Gulf. These words of tolerance are not just about words, but appear to be about making Jews feel part of the fabric of places like Dubai, where people from 200 nationalities live. This means Jews can become a fabric of these societies, so that a man with a kippah is as normal as anyone wearing any other type of outfit. That is the way it should be.
That is what we were told diversity and multi-culturalism would mean in the US and Europe. But there, it comes with several thousand attacks on Jews a year. Even in countries with a handful of Jews like Norway, there are tens of thousands of antisemites according to surveys. It means that many are people who could never conceivably even meet a Jew. But nevertheless, they hate or dislike Jews. And that is after many decades of supposedly being educated about diversity and tolerance and progressive values.  
It should be normal to be Jewish, to celebrate Hanukkah, to wear a kippah if one wants, to do Jewish things and buy kosher food if one keeps kosher. It should be as normal as to be Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Buddhist. Yet, a Buddhist and people of other faiths can go to prayers in Germany or France or the UK and not worry that they and their children will be beheaded and murdered by extremists. Their graves will not be vandalized.
It wasn’t that hard for these wealthy European countries to teach zero tolerance for anti-Jewish behavior. Had they devoted just a small percentage of the effort most of them put into collaborating with the Nazis between 1940 and 1945, they could have accomplished it. A continent that could build gas chambers to execute six million could surely have put in place an education system to eradicate hatred. The fact that this has not happened after 75 years shows that serious efforts have not been made.
Germany, often praised as a leader in Europe, had nearly ten attacks a day on migrants in 2016 – fully 3,500 attacks that year, in a country praised as somehow leading the way in diversity and tolerance.
And that is the reality of Europe. Talk, talk, talk about diversity and then thousands, tens of thousands of attacks, on minorities. That such attacks are measured in the thousands, not in single digits, shows the reality.  
IT’S POSSIBLE to have zero levels of anti-Jewish attacks. But it’s difficult when members of some European political parties, such as the Labour Party in the UK, are found to be members of secret social media online groups that openly deny and mock the Holocaust. That’s the reality.
When educated people in the leading political parties are “liking” and tolerating posts on Facebook claiming the Holocaust didn’t happen, or claiming Jews “exploit it,” then you have a problem. You can’t have tolerance when some of the people who are supposed to be progressive and in charge of tolerance in places like the UK deride and dislike Jews and tolerate Holocaust denial.  
It’s not clear if the new messages from the UAE, Bahrain and other states that are pushing tolerance and coexistence will lead to a new era in the Middle East, but today I’d feel safer in the UAE with a kippah than in most countries in Europe. That says a lot about the disastrous failure of wealthy Western countries to create a society of tolerance towards an ancient minority.
It also shows that it’s not that hard to have tolerance. In most countries in Asia, a person can wear a kippah and feel safe and secure. Just not in parts of Europe, despite all the talk about “human rights” and “diversity.”