At the corner of Waterpark Road and Broom Lane in Manchester, at the epicenter of the city’s Orthodox Jewish community, a patch of sidewalk has been covered by a tarpaulin. Beneath the tarpaulin is a swastika. Further down the same block is the Broughton Jewish Primary School, where each afternoon mothers arrive in their battered Volvos to pick up smiling children. Rabbis and studious young bochurs pass through in a constant stream, going to and from prayers, study and home. Everyone in this modern-day shtetl knows what the tarp is hiding. “It’s a reminder that they are there and that they know how to hurt us,” one mother said, before picking her children up from school.
While serious violence against Jews is extremely rare in Manchester, last year saw a 79 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents in the city. Swastikas appeared on pavement, walls and gravestones, abuse was hurled from cars, and cans and rocks were thrown at Jewish children. In January, the former Chief Rabbi of Britain Lord Jonathan Sacks revealed on the radio that a serious terror plot against Jewish synagogues and schools in Manchester had been foiled by the police.
The most recent surge in overt anti-Semitic incidents in Britain began last summer during Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza. In Manchester, the discord aroused by the war focused on the Kedem cosmetics store in the center of town. For almost the entire duration of the conflict the shop, which sells Israeli beauty products, was picketed by pro-Palestinian activists. The action was framed as a political protest, but many in the community felt the act of boycotting a Jewish shop to be anti-Semitic.
It wasn’t hard to find evidence of more overt feelings against Jews at the protests, either. Protesters outside the shop were heard chanting “Hamas, Hamas, Hamas.” One protester told a camera of his love for Hitler. “These are Zionists,” another said, “they don’t care about life, they care about making money.” The local Jewish community organized counter-protests. “They called us Nazis, killers,” said one woman who was involved. “It was a vehicle for those who hate us.”I hate to say it, but she could be describing a "protest" here in Canada.