Synagogue vandalized in Armenia, apparently over Israeli-Azeri ties

‘The Jews are the sworn enemies of the Armenian state,’ reads text that circulates after red paint poured on Yerevan’s only Jewish center

Red paint is seen smeared on the facade of the Mordechay Navi Jewish Religious Center in Yerevan, Armenia, following a suspected antisemitic incident on October 3, 2023. (CER)
Red paint is seen smeared on the facade of the Mordechay Navi Jewish Religious Center in Yerevan, Armenia, following a suspected antisemitic incident on October 3, 2023. (CER)

Unidentified individuals poured red paint on the façade of a synagogue in Armenia in an attack that appeared to be connected to Israeli weapon sales to Azerbaijan.

Following the incident Tuesday outside the Mordechay Navi Jewish Religious Center in Yerevan, Armenia, a text began circulating in pro-Armenian social media pages, describing the incident as retaliation for Israel’s sale of drones and other arms to Azerbaijan and the recent criticism by dozens of rabbis of rhetoric by Armenian officials, who equated the Holocaust to Azerbaijan’s actions against Armenian troops and civilians.

“The vandalism of the World Jewish Center in Armenia is distressing,” Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the Conference of European Rabbis, said in a statement Wednesday. “The Jewish community in Armenia is not a party to the conflict” between Armenia and Azerbaijan, he added.

In the antisemitic text that circulated in pro-Armenian channels, the authors wrote: “The Jews are the enemies of the Armenian nation, complicit in Turkish crimes and the regime of Aliyev, stained with the blood of the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh.” Ilham Aliyev is the president of Azerbaijan. Artsakh is the name of the pro-Armenian government of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, which Azerbaijan captured last month in a military campaign.

“The Jewish state provides weapons to Aliyev’s criminal regime, and Jews from America and Europe actively support him. Turkey, Aliyev’s regime, and the Jews are the sworn enemies of the Armenian state and people,” the text also reads.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt attends the 2017 Breakthrough Prize at NASA Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, December 4, 2016. (Kimberly White/Getty Images North America/AFP)

Israel buys a substantial part of its petrol from Azerbaijan, a Muslim-majority that shares a border with Iran. It also sells drones and other advanced weapons to Azerbaijan.

The antisemitic text also references a letter recently cosigned by dozens of rabbis, many of them from Chabad, who criticized Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for equating Azerbaijani actions with those of the Nazis during the Holocaust. His remarks belittle the “terrible suffering experienced by the victims of the horrific Holocaust and the Jewish people at large,” the rabbis wrote.

“If Jewish rabbis in the United States and Europe continue to support Aliyev’s regime, we will continue to burn their synagogues in other countries. Every rabbi will be a target for us. No Israeli Jew will feel safe in these countries,” the text circulating in pro-Armenian channels reads.

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant (right) shakes hands with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in Baku, Azerbaijan, July 13, 2023. (Ariel Hermoni/IMoD)

The Mordechay Navi Jewish Religious Center is the only synagogue in Yerevan, where several hundred Jews live.

Goldschmidt in his statement called on Armenian President Vahagn Garniki Khachaturyan to “condemn this heinous act,” referencing the vandalism. “The Armenian government must enhance the security around the Jewish community and prosecute those responsible for this antisemitic act,” Goldschmidt wrote, adding: “I stand in solidarity with the Jewish community in Armenia and pray that they continue to celebrate the holiday of Sukkot and carry on their extensive activities.”

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