“I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws.” (Psalm 119:30)
On Saturday, Palestinian arsonists set fire to Torah scrolls and prayer books at a makeshift synagogue named for the three boys who were kidnapped and murdered in the area last summer — Gilad Shaer, Natfali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach.
The synagogue was housed in a tent in the Givat Sorek outpost of Gush Etzion (“Etzion bloc”), several miles south of Jerusalem in the Judean mountains.
The tent, which burned down completely, was erected next to the site where the bodies of the three Jewish teenagers were found.
“The sight of the burned Torah scrolls in the Etzion bloc is heartrending,” said Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Saturday. “The assault on our people’s holy items hurts all the more when it is done at the place that commemorates Eyal, Gil-ad and Naftali, who were murdered by a cruel hand.”
The books and scrolls were stacked in the center of the room before being lit on fire. Footprints of the suspects led to a Palestinian Arab village near the town of Halhul. (Ynet)
“In a place where books are burnt, there in the end people will also be burned,” Shaer’s mother, Bat Galim Shaer, wrote on Facebook after the attack, quoting the German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine.
“Attacking Torah scrolls is an attack on the soul of the Jewish people. Those who wish to harm our bodies do not flinch from attacking our spirit. We will continue to choose life — and to strengthen the spirit of the Jewish people, which is stronger than ever,” she wrote.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that the suspected Palestinian arsonists would be tracked down and brought to justice.
“We will prosecute the perpetrators of this crime. I expect the international community to condemn the desecration of a synagogue, an act that is the result of incessant Palestinian incitement,” the prime minister said.
“We are in a harsh struggle between those who — like us — seek coexistence and peace, and those who seek war and bloodshed,” Netanyahu stated.
On Sunday, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein said the arson was “the outcome of incitement by those who hate anything that has even a Jewish smell to it, and by those who are responsible for the murderous climate in which we have been living recently.”
The pictures of the burned books were so shocking, that Gush Etzion Regional Council head David Perl said, “I am certain that Holocaust survivors who experienced Kristallnacht and then founded Gush Etzion never dreamed that they would see such pictures of burned books here, under Israeli authority.” (BIN)
International groups such as the United States’ Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and local groups, including the chairman of the Muslim religious council in Israel, all condemned the destruction. (Arutz 7)
“Throughout the millennia, anti-Semites have burnt Torah scrolls as a way of expressing hatred and contempt for the Jewish people, and it is greatly disturbing that similar incidents continue to occur today,” ADL CEO Johnathan Greenblatt said, emphasizing that such actions have no political justification. “We call on Palestinian political and religious leaders to unequivocally condemn this terrible incident.”
Greenblatt called the arson “nothing short of an act of anti-Semitism.”
The chairman of the Muslim council, Sheikh Mohammed Kaiyuan Abu Ali, condemned the destruction in a Sunday conversation with Israel’s Chief Ashkenazic Rabbi David Lau.
“We hope the perpetrators will be caught and that they will be punished to the fullest extent of the law,” the sheikh said. “In my name, and on behalf of all imams, we condemn this act and hope another disaster like this doesn’t happen again in any holy place.”