Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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18 Sivan 5760 - June 21, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Torah Scrolls Desecrated in French Hill Synagogue

by Betzalel Kahn

A pall of horror descended upon Jerusalem's French Hill neighborhood on Shabbos morning, 7 Sivan, when its residents learned of the desecration of the Torah scrolls in one neighborhood synagogue and vandalism in another. Thugs broke into two synagogues before dawn, wreaking havoc, stealing valuable objects, and desecrating the Torah scrolls in one. Police have launched an investigation.

On Shabbos morning close to 4 AM, vandals broke into the neighborhood's central Sephardic synagogue, Neve David, shattering its window panes. A sophisticated alarm system protecting the aron kodesh prevented them from damaging the Torah scrolls.

However the vandals managed to steal the synagogue's amplifier system, used during droshos and shiurim during the week. Sifrei kodesh were desecrated, and the synagogue looked like there had been a pogrom. When the gabai arrived at 3:50, he noticed people fleeing the site in a private car.

He entered the synagogue and, to his shock, discovered that it was a shambles. Startled by the terrible appalling havoc, he proceeded to the main Ashkenazic synagogue, Ohel Shmuel -- in the same complex -- and discovered there a similar horrifying scene. The aron kodesh was open: its steel door having been broken by a rod. Torah scrolls were strewn on the floor. The Torah crown, along with additional silver items, had been stolen.

Because it was Shabbos, all the gabai could do was to arrange the Torah scrolls in their places. Members of the synagogue coming to pray did everything possible within the bounds of the laws of Shabbos to straighten the place.

Police arriving on the scene began an investigation of this grave crime.

Neighborhood residents and synagogue members were both incensed and disconcerted, since they thought that the vandalism might have been committed by Jewish thugs influenced by the incitement and hate directed of late against the Torah-observant sectors in eretz hakodesh. In the afternoon, however, French Hill residents found the stolen silver items in a nearby field on a road leading to a nearby Arab village. Local residents thus did not rule out the possibility that the crime had been perpetrated by Arabs wanting to steal the synagogues' silver items and tzedoko boxes.

Police told the gabaim that are not fully equipped to contend with thieves from nearby Arab villages. However, they did not exclude the possibility that the burglary was committed by base individuals who deliberately sought to destroy the synagogues. All angles are being investigated by police.

Neighborhood rabbonim have asked police to investigate the affair as soon as possible and to apprehend the perpetrators and bring them to justice. It is impossible to remain silent in the face of so shocking and disgraceful a crime, they added.

French Hill residents say that although there have been similar occurrences in the past in neighborhood synagogues, police have done nothing to apprehend the vandals.

At a meeting held on motzei Shabbos, with HaRav Boruch Shraga and HaRav Michael Halpern, the rabbonim of the neighborhood and neighborhood activists, it was decided to hold a selichos and ta'anis rally this coming Thursday night as an expression of shock over the desecration of the Torah scrolls.

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