The Republic's Jewish population has experienced little or no hostility since the latest outbreak of violence in Gaza, the chairman of the Jewish Representative Council of Ireland, Maurice Cohen, has said in an interview with The Irish Times.
"There have been a few emails and messages but not very many. There have never been any major incidents of anti-Semitism in Ireland. Yes, there were those slogans along the [Dublin] quays and on hoardings last year but those involved just foolish people. Such are isolated incidents."
People make a distinction, he said: “They see us as Irish people of the Jewish faith.” There were, of course, “virulent examples of anti-Semitism on certain online publications”, he added.
He described the Israel-Gaza conflict as "absolutely horrendous" and said he felt for every person killed and injured on all sides. The council and himself wanted "to see a peaceful Israel and Palestine as soon as possible. We hope the two states can come about and live in peace, otherwise it will just go around and around. We want to see their swords become ploughshares."
The Israeli Labor Party leader and leader of the opposition in the Knesset, Isaac Herzog, has strong Irish connections, he noted, and the representative council intended to invite him to visit Ireland.
Mr Herzog’s father, former Israeli president
, was born in Belfast and raised in Dublin. His grandfather, Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog, was Ireland’s first chief rabbi from 1919. In that role until 1937, he was a strong proponent of Irish independence and openly supported the first Dáil and the republican movement during the War of Independence. He became an Irish speaker and was known as “the Sinn Féin rabbi”. He developed a close friendship with then
leader and taoiseach Éamon de Valera. In 1966, a forest near Nazareth was dedicated to Mr de Valera on behalf of Ireland’s Jewish community.
Mr Cohen said that when he was growing up in Dublin during the 1950s and 1960s “there was a huge affinity between Ireland and Israel”.