Tunisian Jew prays in synagogue_311.
(photo credit: Reuters/Zoubeir Souissi)
Unidentified persons torched the Tunisian El Ghriba Synagogue in Ramle on
Wednesday night, the fifth time the building has been set on fire of late,
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Police suspect the blaze at the place of worship associated
with the local Jewish Tunisian community was a hate crime.
took Israel’s Jews of Tunisian origin by surprise.
Miriam Gez-Avigail, a
community activist, said the arson was “shocking” and hoped police will catch
the culprits soon.
“There are all sorts of suspicions,” she said. “Some
lead to the Arab community, others to part of the Jewish community in the city.
We cannot point a finger at the moment.”
She said the incident
underscored the importance of completing the construction of a Tunisian Jewish
community center in Jerusalem, which has been stalled because of a lack of
The torching of the synagogue in Israel came a few weeks after
Vice Premier Silvan Shalom called on the remaining 1,800 Jews in Tunisia to make
, sparking a minor diplomatic row with the newly elected government in
Last week, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki responded to
Shalom’s call by meeting with Tunisia’s Chief Rabbi Haim Bittan and inviting
Tunisian Jews in Israel to return to the country.
“Tunisian Jews will
always remain Tunisians, whether they live in Israel or in the USA,” he said,
adding that the country was safe for Jews.
Speaking over the phone from
Tunis on Thursday. Roger Bismuth, the president of the Jewish community in
Tunisia, was still angry over Shalom’s comments.
“Personally, I think it
was a very stupid thing to say,” he said. “He says whatever he wants but he
doesn’t realize that I am a Tunisian and that people like me have our families
and factories here.”
He said Jews felt safe in Tunisia
and that so far he
had been pleasantly surprised by the new Islamist government’s policies toward
the non-Muslim minority.
Back in Ramle, Police on Thursday said a
separate arson incident in the mixed city, involving the torching of a car of a
national-religious high school principal, was probably not a sectarian
Three Arab-Israelis were arrested after the vehicle was set on
“We believe this is not more than a feud between neighbors,” a
source familiar with the investigation said.
The suspects are still being
questioned in custody.