Vandals ransacked a Jerusalem synagogue Monday night in an attack labeled an “antisemitic pogrom,” the second time in a week a synagogue was vandalized.
The synagogue, located in the Kiryat Yovel neighborhood, was broken into and its ritual objects- including a Torah scroll and prayer books – were destroyed. Photos from the scene showed Torah scrolls strewn across a floor full of dirt and dust and a hole cut in into the side of the ark, from which the vandals extracted the scroll.
“I am shocked at the desecration of a synagogue in Jerusalem,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. “The police must immediately find those responsible in order to bring them to justice,” he said.
President Reuven Rivlin bemoaned the “difficult and shocking pictures that came out of the synagogue,” he wrote on Twitter.
“This morning we were shown a shocking case of the desecration of a synagogue and destruction of Torah Scrolls in Kiryat Yovel,” Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said in a statement. ” This was a serious incident that is reminiscent of dark times of the Jewish people; we will not allow crimes like this to occur in our time.”
Interior Minister Arye Deri called the vandalism “shocking” display of violence, reminiscent of the antisemitic pogroms carried out in the Nazi era. “It is hard to believe how such an outrageous antisemitic pogrom takes place in a synagogue, here in Israel,” he said.
Kiryat Yovel has been the scene of significant inter-communal conflict between the original, secular residents and the large numbers of families from the haredi community who have moved to the area in recent years due to housing shortages in more traditionally haredi neighborhoods.
The two communities have argued about several issues including the use of the community center on Shabbat, use of neighborhood resources and infrastructure and other issues.
In March last year, the lines of two eruvs, ritual demarcation lines for the Sabbath, were cut in an apparent attack by non-religious vandals.
The eruvs in question included one which is used by the Kiryat Yovel and Ramat Sharet neighborhoods, among others and were found to be severed in several places.
Stickers with the messages “Secular Ramat Sharet” and “Monkeys go home” were stuck to some of the eruv polls.
An eruv is a continuous demarcation line used by religious Jews, in many cases a series of poles supporting a wire, which encircles city or neighborhood and according to Jewish law makes carrying and transporting objects in the public domain permissible where without such a system such activity would be forbidden.
Politicians and religious figures decried the vandalism, calling on the police to do everything in their power to find those who carried out the act.
Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau, called Tuesday a “difficult morning for every Jew.”
“We must reflect on how we got into such a situation in the holy city of Jerusalem,” he continued. “A synagogue being desecrated and Torah scrolls thrown to the floor! Unfortunately, this is not the first case. I expect that the Israel Police will treat this as a hate crime in every way and will ensure that whoever is responsible for the criminal act will not be spared.”
Chief Sefardi Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, was “horrified” at the “terrible disgrace,” and called on authorities to “leave no stone unturned” in their search for the perpetrators of the incident.
Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said the vandalism “recalls dark days in the history of the Jewish people.”
“The vandalism of a synagogue and desecration of Torah scrolls last night in Jerusalem are a terrible act. The sights pain the heart and prompt difficult feelings,” Education Minister Naftali Bennett said.
“I call on the authorities to investigate the matter with the full force of the law and bring the perpetrators to justice as quickly as possible,” he said.
“It is forbidden to move on to the daily routine after this contemptible desecration of Heaven,” said Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Israel Kellerman. “It is a heartbreaking sight.”
Tuesday’s vandalism was the second-such incident in a synagogue this week.
Earlier this week, vandals broke into the New Synagogue in Netanya and burned prayer books and sprayed graffiti on the walls, writing “Hail Satan.” It was the second time in a month that the Netanya synagogue was vandalized. That congregation is attended by a large number of English-speaking immigrants.
“Two synagogues were vandalized in one week, the first in Netanya, and the second one – this morning in Jerusalem, our capital… it happened here, in the Jewish state,” Edelstein said.
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.
Police have opened an investigation into Tuesday’s vandalism incident.