Vandals burned prayer books and sprayed graffiti on the walls of Netanya’s New Synagogue, Israel Police said Sunday.
They wrote “Hail Satan” and painted a pentagram and an upside-down cross on the synagogue’s walls. Police also found a bag at the scene containing a pink bra.
This is the second incident of its kind this month, according to synagogue member David Woolf. While both involved graffiti, this time the vandals burned books, he said.
Woolf, who made aliyah from America two and a half years ago, attributed the vandalism to a prank by local children.
“What we assume that it was local kids, and not anything beyond that. It was certainly upsetting,” he said, insisting the community was not alarmed.
When asked if anything similar happened to his community in the US, Woolf responded, “We never experienced anything like this in New York, thank God… This is just something out of the ordinary.”
Police are investigating the incident.
The New Synagogue is also known as the MacDonald International Shul, or simply MacDonald’s. It is popular with English-speaking retirees and is one of the centers of Anglo life in the coastal city. A number of immigrants from across the globe, including from Brazil and Italy, also attend regularly.
“I haven’t been to too many Israeli shuls, really, so I don’t know what they’re like, but the New Synagogue is a lot like the shuls we had back in England,” Lillian Green, a London native and wife of one of the synagogue’s founders, told The Jerusalem Post in 2014.
“The shul is located on a quiet street,” Woolf said, but “all of Netanya is on a quiet street.”
By all accounts, the three words that best describe the congregation at MacDonald’s are “English,” “elderly” and “involved,” community leader Stuart Shammai said at the time. “It started off years ago as an American-based congregation, but over the years that has changed. Now it’s primarily English, with some Americans and South Africans. The new rabbi is bringing in more South Africans. There are even one or two French. We are fairly United Nations, but maybe 70% of us are from England.”
In recent months, there have been other attacks on Netanya synagogues, including Beit Israel, a Masorti (Conservative) synagogue that was vandalized on four separate occasions in May 2018, with windows smashed and other property in the building damaged.