Who is burning Jerusalem synagogues?

Residents speculate on apparent arson attacks.

May 4, 2010 09:04
2 minute read.
Yeshivat Harambam was damaged in a fire on Saturda

Yeshiva Arson 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post)

A mysterious pair of arson attacks over two consecutive nights at synagogues in different haredi neighborhoods of the capital have left police and local residents scratching their heads as to who could be behind the blazes, and what their motives might be.

The topic drew a flurry of speculation from passers-by on Monday morning as they stopped to have a look at the charred black patch on the front door of Yeshivat HaRambam in Jerusalem’s Beit Yisrael neighborhood. The synagogue was damaged overnight Sunday, in the more recent of the two attacks.

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The first attack, which Jerusalem police had characterized on Saturday night as arson, occurred inside the Heichal Shlomo synagogue on Rehov Panim Meirot in the capital’s Romema neighborhood. The blaze, which damaged the ark and its curtains before passers-by were able to douse the flames, began as revelers nearby burned bonfires in honor of Lag Ba’omer.

The attack at Yeshivat HaRambam did less damage, although flames burned a portion of the front door and another entrance to the building.
After both attacks, however, police and neighborhood residents told The Jerusalem Post that they had no idea who had started the fires or why.

“Who would try and burn a synagogue?” asked Yehuda Ganz, a middle-aged man who had paused outside Yeshivat HaRambam on Monday to inspect the damage. “I certainly hope this wasn’t done by Jews, God forbid. But regardless of who did it, are there no red lines?”

Ganz’s dismay was echoed by many on Monday as they stood outside the unassuming study hall, which doubles as a shtiebel, or small house of prayer.

Opinions on how and why the attacks took place were abundant, although no one seemed to have any concrete ideas.

“The fire on Saturday night was an accident, from what I understood,” said a wide-eyed yeshiva student, who had come outside with his peers to have another look at the door.

Others said both incidents had been deliberate, while still others argued over whether or not the fires were connected.

“They could very well be connected; it’s possible,” said another yeshiva student before being chastised by another of his peers, who firmly felt the two attacks were unrelated.

For their part, Jerusalem Police have given few details of the two attacks, and have refrained from announcing any connection.

A Jerusalem Police spokeswoman told the Post on Monday afternoon that authorities were looking into the matter.

“The entire case is being investigated, and we’re checking to see if there is a connection between the two fires,” the spokeswoman said. “At the moment however, we have no definite details, and we’re continuing to look at a number of different angles.”

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