Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Danish Jew in Denmark

A Danish Jew experiments by walking through a Copenhagen neighborhood while wearing a kippah.
Krasnik set out to walk two kilometers down Nørrebrogade, through a neighborhood he used to call home, in the city in which he was born and raised, wearing a yarmulke. The discomfort began quickly. “The first Arab guys I talked to happened to be in a very infamous, violent gang” that controls a large chunk of the drug trade in Nørrebro. Krasnik asked them what they thought would happen to him if he were to continue walking through the neighborhood wearing a kippah. “I mean, you’re Jewish,” one said to him. “But how can we know that you’re not Israeli?” If you’re an Israeli, Krasnik was told, “we have a right to kick your ass.”

Not being an Israeli—Krasnik specified that he was, in fact, a Danish Jew—he escaped without a beating. It was an inauspicious start, but he forged ahead and was soon confronted by another group of young immigrants. “Some young people, boys, started to shout ‘are you Jewish?’ and were giving me the finger,” he recalled. “One of the younger guys, a Somali, came over and asked me, ‘Are you Jewish?’ I said, ‘Yes of course.’ And he ran back to the group and said, ‘Go to hell, Jew.’” No one tried to hit Krasnik—it was early afternoon, and the street was bustling—but the journalist had the feeling that physical violence loomed.

“I started to feel … unpleasant,” he told me. “I thought: If I keep doing this for an hour or two, something will happen. And if I did this everyday, I would get my ass kicked around.”

On the final leg of his 2-kilometer walk, he approached a small grocery store, where five or six young men—“probably 25 years old, of Pakistani or Palestinian background”—were loitering outside. They too quickly spotted his yarmulke. “They stopped me immediately and asked, ‘Are you Jewish?’ And when I said yes, they said ‘Take that [kippah] off.’ One was shouting from behind, ‘You’re from Israel!’ I said, ‘No, I’m from Denmark and I live just down the road.’ ”
The remainder of the story is equally harrowing: principals advising Jews not to enroll in their schools, anti-Semitic incidents doubling, Jewish groups forbidden from displaying Israeli flags at a multicultural festival (which contemplated excluding Jews entirely), and protesters hurling rocks at the Israeli embassy. This all has been met with ambivalence, at best, from the Danish government.