PRAGUE — Rabbis from European countries gathered in Prague Tuesday for training in self-defense and first aid in response to a wave of attacks against Jews and a rise of anti-Semitism on the continent.
In a stunning beginning of a training session, knives were distributed to dozens of rabbis, young and old, before receiving instructions and practicing what to do to survive stabbing and how to treat injuries.
Some occasionally burst out with a laugh but overall the rabbis took it seriously as it was prompted by fears after the deadly terror attack against a kosher grocery in Paris in January and the murder of a Jewish security guard outside a synagogue in Copenhagen earlier this month.
"When we see the level of anti-Semitism in Europe, when we see the level of hate in Europe, when we see the lack of leadership of European governments to fight against anti-Semitism and terror, we're not surprised, unfortunately (by the attacks)," said Rabbi Menachem Margolin.
Tuesday's training was part of an annual gathering of rabbis organized by the Rabbinical Centre of Europe and the European Jewish Association headed by Margolin.
He said the idea was to demonstrate "the most basic stuff needed."
A lack of action from European governments to protect Jews in Europe has contributed to their decision to organize the training, first in Prague, and later in other European countries.
"We've urged the European countries to do something and we did not get a real response from them," Margolin said, adding all Jewish institutions in Europe should be protected by police 24 hours a day.
He said that if police officers are not able to provide protection, guards appointed by Jewish organizations to protect Jewish sites should be allowed to be armed.
Binyomin Jacobs, chief rabbi in the Netherlands, welcomed the training.
"It's very important," the 66-year-old said. "I'm very happy with this. Happy and sad that it is necessary."