Arsonists set fire to a small roadside synagogue in north-central Israel before dawn in Friday, but the fire was put out before it could consume holy books and tefillin (phylacteries). The synagogue is located next to a rest stop on Highway 6, and enables travelers to make a “pit stop” for praying and then continue to drive down the major thoroughfare.
Mendi Makmal, Chabad’s emissary at the synagogue, told Arutz Sheva that the report about the attack was received at 5:00 AM Friday. The same synagogue was burned to the ground in a previous arson attack, 14 months ago, and Makmal feared that the same thing had happened again. Happily, he was proven wrong.
“In the end it was the employees at the site who showed initiative, took fire extinguishers and water and succeeded in putting out the fire,” he recounted. “Thank G-d, the damage is only external, the tefillin and books remained whole, and only the walls and air conditioners were damaged. We will fix them and activity will resume with even greater gusto.”
Security cameras were installed after the previous arson, and the recordings are in the hands of the police, said Makmal.
While the synagogue is located near the Arab town of Baka al-Gharbiya, Makmal was not quick to point the finger at that specific community. “There are fields and orchards here and a person can approach from any direction. If you want to set the fire, you just have to cover your face and set the fire.”
Makmal said that the arsonists apparently had helmets on. They poured gasoline and set it on fire, and then got away.
Makmal explained that it is important for the synagogue to hold a stock of tefillin because “sometimes, a bus arrives and within a space of ten minutes we have to take care of everyone. There are all kinds of tefillin here – right handed, left handed, Sephardi, Ashkenazi etc. You can see the variety of the population here, and the Nation of Israel comes here in masse.”