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Thousands Of Germans Wore Yarmulkes To Protest Anti-Semitism

The demonstrations were sparked by a viral video of an Israeli teen being beaten with a belt in Berlin for wearing a yarmulke in public.

Posted on April 26, 2018, at 5:38 p.m. ET

Thousands of Germans lined the streets on Wednesday, donning a vast array of yarmulkes to protest a rise in anti-Semitism in the country.

Carsten Koall / Getty Images

In cities across the country, many protesters showed their solidarity with the estimated 200,000 Jews inside Germany — including 100,000 in Berlin alone — by donning the skullcaps, also known as a kippah in Hebrew.

The protests were in response to a video of an Israeli teen being attacked for wearing a yarmulke in Berlin that went viral last week.

View this video on YouTube

In the video, a young man is seen being beaten with a belt as he walks down the streets of Berlin. One assailant can be heard screaming "Yahudi," which means "Jew" in Arabic, as he is attacked.

In a twist of irony, the victim in the video — identified as Adam Armoush, 21, from Haifa, Israel — isn't Jewish. He's an Israeli Arab, who was wearing the yarmulke in an attempt to show that Berlin isn't anti-Semitic. The assailant has turned himself in to local police.

The fact that the assailant was a Palestinian refugee from Syria led some to argue that the spike in anti-Semitism was due to the influx of immigrants. But attacks against Jews in recent years have mostly been committed by ethnic Germans.

Carsten Koall / Getty Images

According to German police statistics, out of the 1,453 anti-Semitic crimes committed in 2017, 90% were attributed to members of far-right or neo-Nazi groups.

The resulting debate has gripped the country. German Chancellor Angela Merkel weighed in on the attack, saying, “It depresses me that we have not been able to get a handle on anti-Semitism once and for all.”

John Macdougall / AFP / Getty Images

“We have a new phenomenon of refugees or people of Arab origin who bring another form of anti-Semitism into the country, but sadly we also had anti-Semitism beforehand,” she told Israel’s Channel 10.

In the aftermath, the head of Germany's Jewish community suggested that it may be better for Jews to not wear yarmulkes in public.

Carsten Koall / Getty Images

Josef Schuster said that while “defiantly professing [one’s Jewish identity] is in principle the best way” to stand up to anti-Semites, some prudence would be wise.

“However, I would have to advise individuals against wearing a yarmulke in metropolitan areas in Germany,” Schuster told German radio station Radioeins on Tuesday.

His comments drew a sharp rebuke from other European Jewish leaders, saying it shows a lack of support from the German authorities.

But the next day, people flooded the streets to do just the opposite, with Jews and gentiles alike wearing yarmulkes in support.

Markus Schreiber / AP, Carsten Koall / Getty Images, Jens Meyer / AP

"A majority of Germans think there's no anti-Semitism," Schuster said during the Berlin rally, defending his comments. "But the reality in Germany is that parents urge their sons to cover their skullcaps with baseball caps and tell their daughters to hide their Star of David under their sweaters when they're in the subway. It's happening right in our midst. We can't let this go on like this. Enough is enough."

But there are fears that the show of support only goes so far, particularly in a climate where a pair of musicians accused of anti-Semitism received Germany's top music award last week and the far right continues to rise in German politics.

Carsten Koall / Getty Images

And whether the support will go beyond the protest remains to be seen.

"As they left the area and passed the police line, many demonstrators could be seen taking their skullcaps off," the New York Times reported.

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