'I shouldn't be afraid to say that I'm Jewish': Man says he was threatened on family's front lawn, EPS investigating anti-semitic incidents
EDMONTON -- Adam Zepp says he was leaving his parents' home Sunday evening when someone inside a passing vehicle shouted at him, "Free Palestine." He wouldn't have thought much of it given the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, but then on the way out of the neighbourhood, the same people asked, "Do any Jews live here?... Where do the Jews live?"
It's the first time the 35-year-old Jewish Edmontonian can recall being targeted -- and he is sure he was in one way or another.
"They didn't go to another neighbourhood. They went to ... a neighbourhood where a lot of Jews live," Zepp told CTV News Edmonton.
The incident, which he says happened in the area of Edmonton's Beth Israel Synagogue, is one of several anti-Semitic incidents in recent days, according to the leadership of the Jewish Federation of Edmonton.
"On the evening of May 16 there were some incidents in the west end of Edmonton involving a vehicle driving through the neighbourhood 'seeking Jews,' confronting people and making threats," Steve Shafir and Stacey Leavitt-Wright wrote in Alberta Jewish News.
Zepp also heard others in his community had encountered the vehicle.
"It was very difficult to determine from their tone what they were looking to do... and I still don't really know," he said.
"Were they just driving around trying to cause commotion? To harass? Or did they actually have more nefarious ideas planned?"
EPS Chief Dale McFee confirmed there were two reports of anti-Semitism.
“These incidents are currently being investigated in consultation with our Hate Crimes and Violent Extremism Unit,” McFee said, emphasizing: “It is important to note at this time, it is unknown if these incidents are related to the rallies for Palestine that occurred around Edmonton this weekend."
An estimated one thousand people joined the Palestinian-organized demonstration Saturday condemning the violence.
As of Tuesday, Gaza's Health Ministry said the Israeli airstrikes had killed at least 213 Palestinians and wounded 1,500 more. Israel said 12 people had died in rocket attacks and 300 were wounded.
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McFee added: “The EPS denounces any and all acts of hate... Incidents such as these have no place in our city.”
The public affairs manager of B'nai Brith Canada's Alberta chapter, who broke recognition of Shavuot to speak to CTV News on Monday -- "I think this issue has transcended all of that," he commented -- said he has received calls about similar incidents from across the country. In some cases, the attacks were violent, Abraham Silverman said.
"It's not unexpected that Jewish people are feeling (scared)," he commented, calling on the public to denounce the racism pointed at his community.
"I'm hoping over the next few days we will hear from racialized communities and people in different religions coming out strongly in support of their Edmonton Jewish community."
Zepp called the experience saddening and disheartening.
"Lot's of people don't break up, let's say, the Israeli government with Israeli people or with the broader Jewish population in general. Me, personally, and most of the people we talk to, we support the Palestinian people. We support a two-state solution. We want peace in the Middle East," he told CTV News Edmonton, criticizing social media users' tendency to reshare information without verifying it.
That has led to more hate than was seen even during the 2014 Gaza War, he believes.
"If you've seen anyone say this is a really simple issue on social media, it's not or else it would have been solved 70 years ago," Zepp said.
"People can disagree. That's totally OK. It's the hateful rhetoric that needs to be toned down."
According to the Jewish Federation of Edmonton, EPS would increase patrols in the area and the federation had purchased additional security.
"A lot of people are scared. And this isn't just in Edmonton," Zepp said.
"I shouldn't be be afraid to say that I'm Jewish."
The president of the Canada Palestine Cultural Association, Samer Elbekai, told CTV News Edmonton anti-semitic comments are "completely wrong" and called for respectful dialogue that promote peace.