Israel issues Sweden Eurovision travel warning amid planned protests

Planned protests against Israel taking part in this year's Eurovision Song Contest have made members of the Jewish community in Swedish host city Malmö anxious and prompted an Israeli warning against travelling to the event.

Publication: 02.05.2024 - 16:35
Israel issues Sweden Eurovision travel warning amid planned protests
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Sweden has promised a dazzling show from May 7-11, but it will take place amid demonstrations over Israel's military assault on the Gaza Strip, triggered by Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which has killed tens of thousands of Palestinians.

The Jewish community of around 1 thousand 200 people is worried it could become a target of large protests planned for May 9, when Israel will take part in the second semi-final, and again on the day of the final, May 11.

"There's a certain feeling of apprehension, of tension. I can't say that I'm not worried," Felix Krausz Sjögren, a guide at the synagogue in Malmö, told Reuters.

"With Israel being in the Eurovision, the emotions will be even more heightened, and maybe the synagogue will be a target of protests. It's not unthinkable."

Israel's National Security Council on Thursday issued an advisory warning against travel to Malmö, citing "a well-founded concern that terrorist elements will exploit the protests and the anti-Israel mood to carry out attacks against Israelis attending Eurovision".

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organises the contest, resisted calls for Israel and its contestant, Eden Golan, to be excluded.

Malmö, Sweden's third-largest city, has a large Muslim community, with the biggest groups originating from Iraq and Syria.

Gang crime has flourished in Malmö and other large Swedish cities for years, fuelled by the drugs trade and linked to poor integration of the immigrant community.

The Jewish community often invites school classes to the synagogue.

"If we have a class with many Muslim kids visiting, we often find that we have a lot in common. We have seen very positive encounters here," said Fredrik Sieradzki, who heads the Jewish Learning Centre in Malmö.

"Eurovision will, of course, not be of help in that sense, but it will pass and then we'll continue with our lives."

Israel was permitted to compete after it agreed to modify the lyrics of its original song "October Rain" which the EBU said made reference to the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

While members of the Jewish community in Malmo have not been subject to physical violence, Sjögren says he is nervous about wearing his Jewish kippah in public.

"I probably wouldn't do that during Eurovision week," he said. "I would be on the safe side and make sure to have something to cover it with."

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