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'Our enemies are wasting their time'

Holy cleanup: Ashkelon synagogue ready for Shavuot 2 hours after hit by rocket

The hole smashed in the wall by a rocket from Gaza is still there but the rest of the damage has been fixed, and Yad Michael Synagogue is ready for festival prayers

  • Israeli security forces at the scene where a synagogue in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip, May 16, 2021. (Avi Roccah/Flash90)
    Israeli security forces at the scene where a synagogue in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon was hit by a rocket fired by Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip, May 16, 2021. (Avi Roccah/Flash90)
  • Fire service officials outside an Ashkelon synagogue hit by a rocket, May 16, 2021 (National Fire and Rescue Authority)
    Fire service officials outside an Ashkelon synagogue hit by a rocket, May 16, 2021 (National Fire and Rescue Authority)
  • A rocket strike on an Ashkelon synagogue, May 16, 2021 (National Fire and Rescue Authority)
    A rocket strike on an Ashkelon synagogue, May 16, 2021 (National Fire and Rescue Authority)
  • An Ashkelon synagogue hit by a rocket from Gaza, May 16, 2021 (National Fire and Rescue Authority)
    An Ashkelon synagogue hit by a rocket from Gaza, May 16, 2021 (National Fire and Rescue Authority)
  • People clean up inside a damaged synagogue in Ashkelon, following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (Avi Roccah/Flash90)
    People clean up inside a damaged synagogue in Ashkelon, following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (Avi Roccah/Flash90)
  • People clean up inside a damaged synagogue in Ashkelon, following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
    People clean up inside a damaged synagogue in Ashkelon, following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
  • Shalom Biton, cantor of the Yad Michael synagogue in Ashkelon, speaks as the synagogue is cleaned up following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (Channel 12 screenshot)
    Shalom Biton, cantor of the Yad Michael synagogue in Ashkelon, speaks as the synagogue is cleaned up following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (Channel 12 screenshot)
  • People clean up inside a damaged synagogue in Ashkelon, following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
    People clean up inside a damaged synagogue in Ashkelon, following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (Tomer Neuberg/Flash90)
  • People clean up inside a damaged synagogue in Ashkelon, following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)
    People clean up inside a damaged synagogue in Ashkelon, following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Barely two hours after a rocket fired from Gaza smashed into an Ashkelon synagogue on Sunday, punching a hole in the wall and spreading debris through the building, locals had cleaned up the damage and pronounced the place of worship ready for use in time for Sunday evening’s opening prayers of the Shavuot festival.

Chunks of rocket had been removed from the Yad Michael synagogue building, and the battered interior cleaned up, with only the hole made by part of the rocket, high in the wall, remaining as gaping evidence of what had happened.

“Nobody is going to destroy our festival,” the synagogue’s cantor said.

The rocket was fired on Sunday afternoon during one of the relentless barrages by Gaza terror groups in which the southern city of Ashkelon has been heavily targeted. It scored a direct hit on the home of the synagogue’s rabbi, who lives next door, causing immense damage, and widespread damage nearby.

A rocket strike on an Ashkelon synagogue, May 16, 2021 (National Fire and Rescue Authority)

Dozens of locals converged on the synagogue and carried out rapid repairs and cleaning. “As you can see, praise the Lord, the synagogue is back in use for tonight’s festival prayers,” proclaimed the delighted cantor, Shalom Biton. “All the congregants have been sent messages to come to prayers as usual.”

Biton noted that Shavuot is the festival that marks the biblical giving of the Torah by God to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai, and said there was no way the community was going to let Gaza terrorists destroy the celebrations.

An Ashkelon synagogue hit by a rocket from Gaza, May 16, 2021 (National Fire and Rescue Authority)

“The people of Israel are strong and courageous,” Biton told a reporter from Israel’s Channel 12 news, as the cleanup work was being completed around him.

Shalom Biton, cantor of the Yad Michael synagogue in Ashkelon, speaks as the synagogue is cleaned up following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (Channel 12 screenshot)

One man was removing a debris-strewn rug from near the holy Ark, where the Torah scrolls are kept; another walked into the camera shot with a broom.

People clean up inside a damaged synagogue in Ashkelon, following a rocket attack from the Gaza Strip, on May 16, 2021. (Avi Roccah/Flash90)

“Our enemies need to know… they won’t beat us,” Biton added, to cheering from the clean-up squad. “Even if there are 100 more rounds of conflict, they’re wasting their time.”

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