Orthodox synagogue in capital torched

Jerusalem police are investigating an arson attack that took place last week at a synagogue located near the east Jerusalem Arab neighborhood of Issawiya, police said Tuesday. The fire broke out last Wednesday night at about 11 p.m. after assailants hurled flammable material at the Sha'are Rahamim Vesimha Synagogue, which is located on the periphery of the French Hill neighborhood. Several rows of chairs in the women's section of the Orthodox synagogue, as well as several prayer books were burned. Jerusalem police spokeswoman Sigal Toledo said that police were investigating "all angles" in the attack, and were trying to determine whether the arson was carried out by Arab or Jewish vandals. Synagogue officials, however, said that they were certain that the attack was the work of Arab teens from the nearby neighborhood. "We have absolutely no doubt that this attack was carried out by Arabs," said synagogue official Saadia Sasson, noting that Arab teens frequently loiter in the area. Neighborhood residents noticed the blaze and phoned police and firefighters, who arrived at the scene within minutes. Sasson said that were it not for the firefighters' quick response the whole synagogue would have burned down. Since the fire, congregants have been unable to use the synagogue due to the damage, he added. It was not immediately clear Tuesday why police did not inform the press of the arson attack at the time of its occurrence. The arson was the first such attack on the synagogue since it was built two decades ago.