Treife synagogue rowTreife synagogue row

Pig foot hung at Arad shul; ultra-Orthodox blame mayor

Hasidic community in southern town says ‘incitement’ behind vandalism at house of worship caught in bitter legal battle

Pig's foot tied to the entrance of a synagogue in Arad, southern Israel, found by police on November 25, 2015. (Israel Police)
Pig's foot tied to the entrance of a synagogue in Arad, southern Israel, found by police on November 25, 2015. (Israel Police)

Worshipers in the southern city of Arad on Wednesday were shocked to find a severed pig’s foot hanging near the entrance to an ultra-Orthodox synagogue recently inaugurated in the city, and accused the mayor of fomenting hatred that led to the vandalism.

The synagogue has been the subject of a lengthy legal battle. Gur hasidic followers claim the property belongs to the sect while the municipality says it owns the structure.

According to ultra-Orthodox news website Kikar HaShabbat, the court eventually ruled in favor of the Gur sect.

Ultra-Orthodox community leaders told Kikar HaShabbat that placing the pig’s foot above the synagogue’s door was “a new low” in the “inciters’ fight against the Haredi public.”

The former development town, on the edge of the Negev desert, has seen tensions over an influx of ultra-Orthodox residents in recent years.

According to Army Radio, adherents of the Gur sect accused the city’s mayor, Nissan Ben-Hamo, of “continuous incitement” that led to the act.

The municipality said that Ben-Hamo condemned the act in a city hall meeting and that all details were transferred to the police.

The head of the Gur yeshiva, Zvi Bialistotzky, did not comment on the case but sources close to him claimed the act was “a result of the local incitement by the mayor.”

According to the Kikar HaShabbat, Bialistotzky succeeded in securing the use of several structures in the city as synagogues despite the municipality’s objection.

“The fight and the battle by the mayor against the ultra-Orthodox public is the reason for the grim atmosphere in the city and the pig’s foot is one of the results,” Gur community leaders wrote in a letter to Ben-Hamo.

Yehuda Ashkenazi, a municipality spokesman, told Kikar HaShabbat that all claims were entirely baseless.

“The municipality has nothing to do with this. Yesterday a city hall meeting was held and the mayor condemned the act. The mayor asked the chief of the local police station to investigate and find the offenders, in the hope that they will be prosecuted.”

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