US and Israel press Tajikistanto protect targeted synagogue
Chabad: The authorities are refusing to provide protection for the site, and say that it is the Jewish community's responsibility.
Photo: Jerusalem Post
The governments of Israel and the United States have both condemned two recent attacks on the last remaining synagogue in Tajikistan and are pressing Tajik authorities to do more to ensure the site's security.
As first reported in Monday's Jerusalem Post, the synagogue in Dushanbe, capital of the small Central Asian nation, was the target of a firebomb attack last Wednesday, when two youths hurled a Molotov cocktail into the building's courtyard.
In a previous incident, on August 18, unidentified assailants started a fire in the building before fleeing the scene. No one was injured in the attacks and police have yet to make any arrests.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Eddie Shapira told the Post that Israeli diplomats had delivered a letter to the Tajik Foreign Ministry in Dushanbe on Tuesday, expressing the government's concern over the two attacks and calling on local authorities to conduct a thorough and rapid investigation.
"We expect the government of Tajikistan to condemn these attacks on the synagogue and we expect them to do so publicly," Shapira said. He added that Israeli officials were also in direct contact with the Tajik Interior Ministry and police.
The US government has also voiced concern over the fate of the synagogue. "We condemn this attack on the synagogue in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, which is the sole Jewish house of worship in the country," US State Department Spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos told the Post by phone.
"We view with concern the ongoing attacks, and the US embassy is following the situation closely," he said, noting that the US Ambassador to Tajikistan went to visit the synagogue on the day after last week's incident.
"We urge the government of Tajikistan to apprehend those responsible and bring them to justice," Gallegos added, pointing out that the initial investigation conducted by the Tajiks had yet to determine the identity of the perpetrators.
Rabbi Dovid Gourevich, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement's chief rabbi of Central Asia, told the Post by phone that the issue of security at the synagogue has long been problematic.
"The authorities are refusing to provide protection for the site, and say that it is the Jewish community's responsibility to pay for security," Gourevich said. "But the community does not have any money to pay for guards or security on its own."
The Dushanbe synagogue garnered international attention earlier this year, when Tajik authorities announced plans to raze it in order to make way for the expansion of a presidential palace.
In February, demolition teams began tearing down the century-old synagogue, but halted in the wake of an international outcry, though not before they had managed to destroy the community's mikve, an office and a classroom.
It is unclear if the two attacks on the synagogue in the past month are connected with the controversy over the government's desire to demolish the building.
Some 350 Jews, most of whom are elderly, reside in Dushanbe.