Wednesday’s terror attack on an Israeli tour bus in the Bulgarian tourist town of Burgas has shocked the nation’s small Jewish community, but did not come as a complete surprise.
Maksim Benevisti, chairman of the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria, was quoted by Army Radio as saying that “reports of attacks against Israelis abroad are nothing new. The only novelty is that it happened here in Bulgaria.”
Bulgaria is home to approximately 5,000 Jews, most of whom live in the capital city of Sofia, about 425 kilometers (265 miles) from Burgas. The coastal city does have a small, active synagogue and a Chabad rabbi serving the community.
Army Radio quoted Rabbi Haim Daverdovich, the Chabad rabbi in Burgas, as saying that many Israelis live in the city, and when they heard the explosion a number of them headed to the Chabad House to keep abreast of the situation. From there they brought food to the survivors.
Burgas has been a popular destination for Israeli tourists, and the Jewish community in Bulgaria as a whole has generally enjoyed a sense of security, with Bulgaria seen by many as having a relatively low level of anti-Semitism compared to other Eastern European countries.
Nevertheless, according to Daverdovich, after Wednesday’s attack many Israelis living in Burgas expressed a desire to return to Israel, and Chabad will assist any who wish to do so to travel to Sofia and discuss their options with the heads of the country’s Jewish community leaders.
Benevisti said in the aftermath of Wednesday’s attack, “the most important thing is that we stay united.”