The Edmonton Police Service has called on its Hate Crimes and Violent Extremism Unit to investigate after “two homes were approached and anti-Semitic rhetoric was used.”
The EPS said they happened over the weekend.
The Jewish Federation of Edmonton told Global News that on the evening of May 16, in the west end, there was a vehicle “driving through the neighbourhood ‘seeking Jews,’ confronting people and making threats.”
The federation said it notified police and RCMP.
Adam Zepp told Global News he was walking down his parents’ driveway Sunday night at around 9 p.m. when a car drove by. Several young men inside yelled: ‘Free Palestine,'” he said.
Because of the layout of the neighbourhood, the vehicle had to loop around the house on its way out, Zepp explained.
“They did come back again and what they said was: ‘Are there any Jews here? Any Jews live here? Where do the Jews live?’
“I was dumbstruck to hear something like that in Edmonton in 2021. It was shocking to me and saddening.”
Over the weekend, pro-Palestine rallies were held in major cities around the world — including Edmonton — as the conflict between Israel and Palestine escalated in recent days. Five days of mayhem in contested Jerusalem has resulted in at least 190 casualties.
Zepp said he was aware there had been pro-Palestine rallies in the city and saw some vehicles with flags.
“Canada is a multi-cultural society. There are going to be diverse people, diverse religion, diverse opinions, and I think that’s great. But when you have this type of rhetoric that just targets hate towards a particular group, that’s not OK.
“If there’s people who are intentionally driving to what I would say in Edmonton is considered to be a fairly Jewish neighbourhood with the intent to… I don’t know what. I don’t know if their intent was to just drive around, honk their horn, make noise.
“I didn’t say I was Jewish. What if I had? How would the situation have unfolded?”
Zepp called police.
In a statement Monday, Police Chief Dale McFee said, “at this time, it is unknown if these incidents are related to the rallies for Palestine that occurred around Edmonton this weekend.
“The EPS denounces any and all acts of hate; incidents such as these have no place in our city, and we do not tolerate acts of intimidation or violence. We understand these acts create feelings of fear within our communities, and as an organization, we are committed to keeping people safe, and fostering a sense of safety for all Edmontonians,” McFee said.
The Jewish Federation said it is working with police and that EPS confirmed “there will be increased police presence in the area” to keep everyone safe.
The federation also hired additional security to patrol the area.
“Incidents like this are occurring in many Canadian cities,” the federation said in a community letter. “We take this matter very seriously and are appreciative of the swift response of our law enforcement partners.
“We appreciate the restraint our community has shown over the past week,” the letter continued.
“We urge you not to engage should you encounter any similar situations.”
The president of the Canada Palestine Cultural Association said he wasn’t aware of the Sunday night incidents and does not support them.
“Anytime there is comments like this, we oppose these things,” said Samer Elbekai. “You shouldn’t be judged based on your race, belief, religion.”
“We don’t encourage anybody to go out and do this, we don’t support it.
“If there’s any rallies in the near future, we hope that people will protest in peace and respect the laws and respect each other across the city of Edmonton and across the country.”
Elbekai said the Saturday rally saw a big turnout.
“We are protesting against the oppression in Palestine,” he said.
“We support that rally and it was very successful… it exceeded expectations and I think it went very peacefully, nothing major and no incidents that we heard of.
“On Sunday, we heard later of marching downtown, I believe towards the legislature. We are not sure who exactly organized that.”
Zepp is urging calm and just hopes things won’t escalate here in Edmonton any further.
“My mother’s parents were Holocaust survivors. She’s a first generation Canadian. I’m her son. I’m now expecting my first child,” he said.
“To think that the great-grandchild of Holocaust survivors still needs to deal with this type of rhetoric and this type of anti-Semitism that was so prevalent back in Europe over 75 years ago, it’s sad and it’s disheartening.”