'We've not seen this since the Holocaust': Antisemitism in Wales up by 300% after outbreak of war

  • Watch the video report by ITV Wales reporter Hamish Auskerry.

There were three times more antisemitic incidents reported across Wales last year compared with 2022, according to the latest data from a Jewish charity.

The Community Support Trust (CST) said 57 incidents were reported, ranging from threats and abusive behaviour to assault. That compares to just 13 total reports in 2022, representing a rise of 338%.

It was announced by the prime minister on Thursday that Jewish schools, synagogues and other community centres are to be given an additional £54 million for security, through funding for the charity, CST.

Sheila Gewolb, who represents the Cardiff United Synagogue on the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said the experience of Jewish people living in Wales since the October 7th attacks in Israel have been "unprecedented since the Holocaust".

Jess Steinberg says most of the antisemitism she has seen has been online. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

"There was just shock that this could happen in this day and age", Sheila told ITV Wales, regarding the Hamas terror attack.

"Initially we had the sympathy of the world that this terrible thing had happened... that 1,200 young people had been murdered at a music festival, that 300 hostages had been taken.

"That lasted for about five days and then Israel decided to defend itself and then we lost the public support, when people saw the awful things happening to the poor Palestinians".

The president of the Jewish Society at Cardiff University, Jess Steinberg, told ITV Wales that she has witnessed more antisemitism since the war broke out.

"There was quite a lot of antisemitism even before then", she said, giving an example of abuse and goading she says her society suffered at the freshers' fair in September.

Jess says most of the antisemitism she has seen has been online. "We make sure as a Jewish community to keep our heads up and try not to let it get to us", Jess told me while we sat in the Cardiff United Synagogue.

Marches calling for an and to the violence in Gaza have been attended by thousands of protestors across the country, including large gatherings in Cardiff and Swansea.

"When I see them I completely understand why they are happening and where they are coming from because it is completely awful that so many women, children and men are dying in Gaza.

"But sometimes there can be antisemitic abuse shouted and it does impact me quite a lot", she says. "It makes me nervous to be walking around, it makes me just want to stay at home and avoid all of it but I need to be able to live my life".

Jess admits she took off her Star of David necklace in the wake of the events on October 7 for fear of abuse. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Sheila Gewolb, who has represented the Cardiff United Synagogue for more than 15 years is also very active in Jewish education.

She has supported the South Wales Jewish Rep Council with an education outreach programme which goes into schools to help children understand what it means to be Jewish and to dispel myths and prejudices.

Sheila says the latest programme was viewed by 1,500 schoolchildren in Wales and was well received.

"We mourn the loss of all innocent life", Sheila continued. "The most important thing in Judaism is the saving of life... no one wants to see children being murdered. But when a little Jewish boy travelling on the tube is asked by a grown adult what they think about the murdering of babies in Gaza.... it's just horrible.

People take part in a Palestine Solidarity Campaign rally outside the Houses of Parliament Credit: Lucy North/PA

"We've lost the moral high ground and it's not good. We need to get through this and have a sustainable ceasefire where people are not killing each other, we need to dismantle Hamas so this can't happen again, and we need to have the hostages home. And then we can say, 'how did this happen?'."

The biggest increase was seen in north Wales, where from just five incidents in 2022, last year saw 36 reported incidents, including the only two assaults reported across the country.

Nathan Abrams is a professor of film at Bangor University, and also the co-convenor of the British Jewish Contemporary Cultures network.

He told ITV Wales that despite the reported rise in anti-semitic incidents in Wales since the war began last October, he has not personally experienced any physical or verbal abuse recently.

"I'm fortunate that I live and work here in north west Wales. I got an antisemitic tweet the other day and it was just water off a duck's back, you're used to it. It's not a perfect world, it's just part of one's existence".

Nathan told ITV Wales he has not personally experienced any physical or verbal abuse recently. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

The professor and author says that because he is not "identifiably Jewish", he does not experience very much abuse, and says those who live in denser Jewish communities in England or who where Jewish dress probably experience a lot more.

"I don't want to give the impression that I see myself as a victim. I can pass as white, therefore I don't experience the abuse that non-white peoples experience everyday.

"Having said that, it's still not acceptable that we see acts of antisemitism at any point, and particularly in the wake of one of the worst tragedies ever to happen to the Jewish people since 1945 and even before Israel had responded.

"If we can't express sympathy for the victims, what have we got?", he added.

Nathan says his experience is that there is no nuance to the debate over Israel and Gaza, and instead Jews are forced to pick a side between the Israeli government, or the Palestinian people, rather than being able to take what he considers to be a more balanced view.

"It's perfectly acceptable I think to say 'bring the hostages home but Israel's response is heavy-handed'", the professor said, "but in the current climate we're expected to take a side and therefore deny the pain and suffering of the other side".

The US President, Joe Biden had hinted that a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas could come as soon as this coming Monday, but that has since been downplayed by both sides in the conflict.

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