A rabbi who was on a bus that was spat at by a group of men in central London has described it as a “bigoted antisemitic attack”, while a passenger said Jewish teenagers were left feeling “scared, shaking” and angry.
Shneor Glitsenstein, director of the Chabad Israeli Centre Golders Green, was on the Hanukkah party bus with around 40 young Jewish people on Monday when the men swore, made obscene gestures and threw a shopping basket at them.
He said: “Let me be clear: on Monday evening we were attacked on the streets of London for being Jewish and celebrating Hanukkah.
“While our bus contained no references to Israel, we were clearly a Jewish group.
“The young men who surrounded us were not engaged in political protest; this was a bigoted antisemitic attack in the heart of London, seen by dozens of others, who stood by silently.”
A woman who was on the open-top bus and filmed the incident said the passengers had stopped at Oxford Street to get off and dance when the men started abusing them.
Joanne Orezi, from Golders Green, told the PA news agency: “They were just starting to swear, pointing fingers, taking off their shoes and spitting, kind of vandalising the bus as well.
“They ripped off a window of the bus.
“It was right outside a shop, so they took a shopping basket, they threw it on to somebody in the bus. Obviously the roof was open so it hit somebody.”
Ms Orezi said the attack lasted around 30 minutes, but she only started filming halfway through as she was “a bit in shock”.
There were five or six men, but only three were actively harassing them, she said.
When the bus started driving off, one of the men ran alongside it and banged his shoe against it.
Ms Orezi, 31, said: “My legs was shaking with anger, truthfully, because we weren’t disturbing anyone, just literally dancing.
“And you know, I’m not as young as the other people. I mean, they were all teenagers, they were more scared.
“Some of them were angry. Some of them were in shock, scared, shaking.
“The younger ones, they weren’t even talking, they just went to the top of the bus.”
Rabbi Glitsenstein said the men approached the group while they were dancing on the famous London street.
He said: “They quickly became aggressive, and began making profane gestures and yelling ‘Free Palestine!’”
The bus was on a city tour from north-west London to celebrate Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights.
The tour was organised by the religious organisation Chabad, which arranges public menorah (candelabra) lightings and gives out food to mark Hanukkah.
This year’s festival runs from November 28 to December 6.
The Metropolitan Police are investigating the incident, which is being treated as a hate crime.
Officers were called to Oxford Street at around 8pm on Monday, but met the bus at another location after it moved on to “avoid any further confrontation”, police said.
The Met said: “The group shown in the video could not be located at the time of the incident and there have been no arrests.”
The attack was also reported to the Community Security Trust (CST), a charity which monitors antisemitic incidents and is working with the police to support the victims.
Dave Rich, CST’s director of policy, told PA: “They were quite frightened that the group who were threatening them were going to physically assault them, they were spitting at them.
“They were pretty scared and they definitely felt it was because they were Jewish that they’d been targeted, there was absolutely no doubt about that.”
In a statement, CST said: “London is a city where Jewish people must be able to celebrate our festivals and enjoy an open, confident Jewish way of life.
“This disgusting incident goes against everything this city stands for and should be condemned by all.”
London mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted: “Antisemitism has no place whatsoever in society and I utterly condemn these disgusting acts. No-one should have to experience this.”
Mr Rich said there has been an increase in antisemitic hate crimes in the UK.
“In the first six months of this year, we had the highest number of antisemitic incidents ever reported to CST in the first six months of any year,” he said.
Police urged anyone who recognises the men in the video, or who has any other information, to call 101 with the reference 6187/29NOV.
Information can also be provided anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
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