The Tel Aviv International synagogue was targeted Sunday by vandals, who left burnt books at the site and graffiti reading: “In a place where the Jewish state bill will be legislated, books will be burned.”
The arson and graffiti — which echoed the statement by Jewish-German poet Heinrich Heine, that “Wherever books are burned, human beings are destined to be burned too” — were denounced by rabbis affiliated with the synagogue as acts of bigotry and terrorism.
The synagogue’s Rabbi Ariel Konstantyn said that the attack was a “clear act of anti-Semitism,” likely perpetrated by radical left-wing activists. The rabbi termed the vandalism “ironic and shocking,” considering the synagogue’s firmly pluralistic stance.
Rabbi David Stav, founder and chairman of the Modern Orthodox Tzohar organization, with which the synagogue is affiliated, also voiced fierce indignation.
“Rather than promote a healthy dialogue with other Jews who think differently, these individuals are resorting to the tactics of terrorists,” Stav said. “We are all entitled to hold different opinions on the challenges facing our society, but anyone who resorts to violence of this nature, and in particular anyone who targets a holy sanctuary, deserves to be condemned in the harshest language.”
Nachman Rosenberg, executive vice president of Tzohar, indicated that the crime merely reinforced the necessity of the “Jewish state bill,” a controversial move to enshrine constitutionally Israel’s status as the Jewish state. The bill, which is being championed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has garnered harsh reactions from critics who say it would degrade the standing of Arabs and other minorities in Israel.
“As an organization dedicated to guaranteeing the Jewish future of Israel, we understand and appreciate the differing viewpoints on the Jewish state bill,” he said. “This manner of disgraceful behavior is yet another alarming indicator of the need to remind us of who we are and what this country was founded for.”
In a separate incident on Saturday night, a fire broke out on the grounds of a dual Hebrew and Arabic language school in southern Jerusalem, sparking suspicion of racially motivated arson.
Firefighters gained control over the blaze at the Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem’s Pat neighborhood. On the walls of the building, emergency responders found graffiti reading “death to Arabs,” “down with assimilation,” and “Kahane was right” — a reference to Meir Kahane, the American rabbi who led the Jewish ultra-nationalist movement until his assassination in 1990.
“There is no coexistence with cancer,” read another tag on a wall.
An initial investigation by the fire department found that the blaze was set intentionally. Evidence from the scene was handed over to police investigators.
No injuries were reported, but serious damage was caused to one of the classrooms, and several walls of the structure suffered minor damage as well, Israel Radio reported.
Lawmakers from across the political spectrum denounced the arson attack.
Lazar Berman contributed to this report.