Jewish cemeteries desecrated in South Africa

Vandals damage four graves in Strand, near Cape Town; community blames vagrants, not anti-Semitism

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Illustrative photo of smashed tombstones in a Jewish cemetery. (AP/Hans Punz)
Illustrative photo of smashed tombstones in a Jewish cemetery. (AP/Hans Punz)

Graves were vandalized in a South African Jewish cemetery over the weekend, prompting calls from global Jewish organizations for authorities to increase their vigilance against anti-Semitism.

Four graves were reportedly damaged at the cemetery in the town of Strand, 50 kilometers southeast of Cape Town.

The local Jewish community filed a complaint with police.

A spokesperson for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies said the incident was not a case of anti-Semitism. “Vandalism of graves is unfortunately a relatively common occurrence in South Africa,” Charisse Zeifert told The Times of Israel by email. “While we have in the past had Jewish graves specifically targeted, as shown by the daubing of anti-Semitic graffiti, this is not the case in the Strand. The perpetrators here appear to be vagrants sleeping in the cemetery.

“While the SAJBD Cape Board had reported the matter to the police, it was to lay a criminal case. The community has put measures in place to prevent similar instances from occurring.”

It was the third such incident in a week, following vandalism at two other Jewish cemeteries in the same district.

Nonetheless, Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog warned in a statement that anti-Semitic incidents around the world “don’t let up for a moment” and called on countries to step up action against the phenomenon.

“I appeal to governments around the world and to law enforcement authorities to not take it lightly, and to take a firm hand against any manifestation of anti-Semitism,” he said.

World Zionist Organization vice chairman Yaakov Hagoel urged South African authorities to find the culprits before the violence escalates and leads to bloodshed.

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