Belgium is planning to stop providing soldiers for security around shuls in Antwerp for lack of funding, the JTA reported.
According to the report, the plan – which has not been finalized – would end the army’s protection in the city’s Jewish neighborhood in September. The redeployment is connected with budgetary and manpower issues in Belgium, where the coronavirus has severely impacted the economy and killed more than 9,000 people.
“The Jewish community needs more, not less, protection in these difficult times,” the Forum of Jewish Organizations of Flemish Jews wrote in a statement about the plan on Monday.
Belgian troops were first posted to guard Jewish institutions in Antwerp in May 2014 after an Islamist terrorist murdered four people in a shooting at the Jewish Museum of Belgium in Brussels, located about 40 miles south of Antwerp.
Antwerp’s center has about 100 Jewish institutions servicing a chareidi population of 18,000 people.
In 2018, an unidentified man was filmed stealing mezuzos from the doorframes of 20 Antwerp homes days after a chareidi man and his son narrowly escaped being rammed by a passing vehicle that swerved in their direction onto the pavement while they were walking to shul on Shabbos. Police said there was no indication the incident was a hate crime.
In 2017, police apprehended and briefly detained a man who allegedly assaulted a chareidi man on the street in Antwerp while shouting “Jew.”