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Imams and rabbis ride tandems in Berlin rally for mutual respect

Jewish rabbis and Muslim imams took to tandem bicycles Sunday to ride through central Berlin in a joint show of inter-faith respect and against racism and anti-Semitism.

Imams and rabbis ride tandems in Berlin rally for mutual respect
A rabbi and a Muslim theologian on a tandem bike in Berlin. Photo: DPA

Dubbed the “meet2respect” ride, it was backed by religious and civic groups, among them the House of One foundation, which combines prayer spaces for Jews, Christians and Muslims.

“We imams and rabbis want to lead by good example,” said Muslim theologian Ender Cetin, who rode one of the 25 tandems as part of a 200-strong group of religious leaders and supporters.

The route led from the city's Holocaust memorial past synagogues and mosques and ended at the Bebelplatz public square that was the site of the notorious Nazi book burning in 1933.

It also passed Breitscheidplatz with its iconic war-damaged Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, scene of a 2016 jihadist attack when a truck sped through a Christmas market crowd, leaving 12 dead.

One of the rides was made in a rickshaw that was shared by community leaders from the three major religions of the book, also including a Christian pastor.

One of the three, Rabbi Andreas Nachama, said “we are cycling because our world does not want to believe that we were all created by a god whom we do not argue about, but rather whom we — each in a different way — adore”. 

Riding with him, Imam Sanci, called the journey “our peacekeeping mission” on which the “the imams, rabbis or pastors share a vehicle … and share responsibility”.

Racism, hate speech and violent attacks have risen in Germany since a mass influx of mostly Muslim refugees starting in 2015 brought more than one million asylum seekers to Europe's biggest economy.

The anti-immigration Alternative for Germany party, which captured nearly 13 percent in a general election last September, has railed against the migrant influx and also challenged Germany's “remembrance culture” and atonement for the Nazi era.

Amid the heightened tensions, Muslim communities have reported an increase of attacks on mosques, and Jewish groups have pointed to rising anti-Semitism, both from the far right and some Muslim newcomers, including a street assault in April by a Syrian refugee on an Israeli man wearing a kippa skullcap.

SEE ALSO: Insults and aggression disturb small Berlin rally against anti-Semitism

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BERLIN

EXPLAINED: Berlin’s latest Covid rules

In response to rapidly rising Covid-19 infection rates, the Berlin Senate has introduced stricter rules, which came into force on Saturday, November 27th. Here's what you need to know.

A sign in front of a waxing studio in Berlin indicates the rule of the 2G system
A sign in front of a waxing studio indicates the rule of the 2G system with access only for fully vaccinated people and those who can show proof of recovery from Covid-19 as restrictions tighten in Berlin. STEFANIE LOOS / AFP

The Senate agreed on the tougher restrictions on Tuesday, November 23rd with the goal of reducing contacts and mobility, according to State Secretary of Health Martin Matz (SPD).

He explained after the meeting that these measures should slow the increase in Covid-19 infection rates, which was important as “the situation had, unfortunately, deteriorated over the past weeks”, according to media reports.

READ ALSO: Tougher Covid measures needed to stop 100,000 more deaths, warns top German virologist

Essentially, the new rules exclude from much of public life anyone who cannot show proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19. You’ll find more details of how different sectors are affected below.

Shops
If you haven’t been vaccinated or recovered (2G – geimpft (vaccinated) or genesen (recovered)) from Covid-19, then you can only go into shops for essential supplies, i.e. food shopping in supermarkets or to drugstores and pharmacies.

Many – but not all – of the rules for shopping are the same as those passed in the neighbouring state of Brandenburg in order to avoid promoting ‘shopping tourism’ with different restrictions in different states.

Leisure
2G applies here, too, as well as the requirement to wear a mask with most places now no longer accepting a negative test for entry. Only minors are exempt from this requirement.

Sport, culture, clubs
Indoor sports halls will off-limits to anyone who hasn’t  been vaccinated or can’t show proof of recovery from Covid-19. 2G is also in force for cultural events, such as plays and concerts, where there’s also a requirement to wear a mask. 

In places where mask-wearing isn’t possible, such as dance clubs, then a negative test and social distancing are required (capacity is capped at 50 percent of the maximum).

Restaurants, bars, pubs (indoors)
You have to wear a mask in all of these places when you come in, leave or move around. You can only take your mask off while you’re sat down. 2G rules also apply here.

Hotels and other types of accommodation 
Restrictions are tougher here, too, with 2G now in force. This means that unvaccinated people can no longer get a room, even if they have a negative test.

Hairdressers
For close-contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, it’s up to the service providers themselves to decide whether they require customers to wear masks or a negative test.

Football matches and other large-scale events
Rules have changed here, too. From December 1st, capacity will be limited to 5,000 people plus 50 percent of the total potential stadium or arena capacity. And only those who’ve been vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will be allowed in. Masks are also compulsory.

For the Olympic Stadium, this means capacity will be capped at 42,000 spectators and 16,000 for the Alte Försterei stadium. 

Transport
3G rules – ie vaccinated, recovered or a negative test – still apply on the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, trams and buses in Berlin. It was not possible to tighten restrictions, Matz said, as the regulations were issued at national level.

According to the German Act on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, people have to wear a surgical mask or an FFP2 mask  on public transport.

Christmas markets
The Senate currently has no plans to cancel the capital’s Christmas markets, some of which have been open since Monday. 

According to Matz, 2G rules apply and wearing a mask is compulsory.

Schools and day-care
Pupils will still have to take Covid tests three times a week and, in classes where there are at least two children who test positive in the rapid antigen tests, then tests should be carried out daily for a week.  

Unlike in Brandenburg, there are currently no plans to move away from face-to-face teaching. The child-friendly ‘lollipop’ Covid tests will be made compulsory in day-care centres and parents will be required to confirm that the tests have been carried out. Day-care staff have to document the results.

What about vaccination centres?
Berlin wants to expand these and set up new ones, according to Matz. A new vaccination centre should open in the Ring centre at the end of the week and 50 soldiers from the German army have been helping at the vaccination centre at the Exhibition Centre each day since last week.

The capacity in the new vaccination centre in the Lindencenter in Lichtenberg is expected to be doubled. There are also additional vaccination appointments so that people can get their jabs more quickly. Currently, all appointments are fully booked well into the new year.

 

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