PRAGUE (Jul. 14)
Extensive security measures are being introduced to protect prominent Jewish sites here against possible terrorist attacks.
As part of the measures, as many as six security cameras are to be installed as soon as possible near official Jewish buildings. Traffic restrictions and protective barriers will also be introduced at sensitive locations around the city’s Jewish Quarter.
In addition, concrete pillars will be erected on sidewalks outside some buildings, including the Jewish Museum, in order to prevent any vehicles from getting too close.
Prague police said patrols have already been stepped up around Jewish locations as an extra precaution.
The steps were announced by the Czech Interior Ministry on the instructions of the country’s National Security Council.
Officials stressed, however, that there is no evidence of specific threats against Jewish targets in the Czech Republic.
“These are preventative measures,” an Interior Ministry spokeswoman said.
“Because of the escalation of the conflict in the Middle East and the unique character of the Old Town,” she added, “the risk of attacks against buildings of the Jewish community and the Jewish Museum cannot be underestimated.”
Czech Jewish leaders welcomed the moves, but they said it had taken years to persuade authorities to take action.
“We have been asking for this since the early 1990s,” said Tomas Kraus, executive director of the Federation of Jewish Communities. “I think that after Sept. 11, the authorities understood everything we had been saying over the years about how sensitive this issue is.”
Kraus added that the Jewish community has been using its own security guards for a number of years, but additional steps were needed to protect Jewish sites.
It is not yet clear who will pay for the new security measures, which are expected to cost around $100,000.
Kraus said the costs could be shared among the Jewish community, city hall and the state.
In the meantime, Kraus said there was no sense of panic in the community.
“Over the years, sometimes it has felt like we are sitting on a barrel of gunpowder, but we cannot limit our work, and for us it is business as usual.”