Jewish communities around the world faced an “explosion of hatred” last year, with the number of violent anti-Semitic attacks rising by 38 percent, according to a report released Wednesday by researchers at Tel Aviv University.
With most of the violence concentrated in Western Europe, many Jews are questioning whether they have any future in the region.
The report by the researchers recorded 766 incidents — ranging from armed assaults to vandalism against synagogues, schools and cemeteries — compared to 554 in 2013.
Many Jews feel like “they are facing an explosion of hatred toward them as individuals, their communities, and Israel,” wrote the researchers from the university’s Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry.
The center releases the report every year on the eve of Israel’s Holocaust memorial day, which begins Wednesday evening.
The researchers said the increase in attacks on Jews was partly linked to last summer’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, as well as to what they called a “general climate of hatred and violence” fostered by the rise of the Islamic State group in the Middle East.
The report said 2014 was the second most violent year for Jews in a decade after 2009, which also saw a surge in anti-Semitism following an Israeli military operation in Gaza.
The violence in 2014 spiked during the July-August war in Gaza, particularly in demonstrations organized in France, Germany and other countries, during which protesters chanted anti-Semitic slogans, looted Jewish shops and attacked synagogues as well as people identifiable as Jews.
However, researchers stressed that attacks had been on the rise also before the summer and said the controversy over Israel’s operation was used as a pretext to attack Jews.
“Synagogues were targeted, not Israeli embassies,” said Dina Porat, a historian who edited the report.
The reported incidents do not include the killing of four shoppers at a kosher supermarket in Paris following the deadly shooting at French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, since those events occurred in January.
However, the researchers noted that the wave of attacks has continued this year, and that the gruesome acts and propaganda videos of the Islamic State are also encouraging the radicalization of Muslims in the West.
The report was timed to be released on the eve of the Israeli government’s observance of Holocaust Rememberance Day. Official ceremonies began at 8:00 p.m. Wednesday at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Yerushalayim.
On Thursday morning a moment of silence was observed throughout the country.
Gedolei Yisrael opposed the choice of the 27 Nisan for this purpose, as not consistent with halachah, Nisan is a month of celebration in which Tachanun is not recited, and eulogies are not given. As many survivors and their children have noted, by choosing this date, the Israeli government openly rejected thousands of years of Jewish tradition and the Torah values so treasured by many of the victims.