Daily Israel Report

Arsonist Destroys Torah Scrolls, Burial Procession Friday

Police suspect the fire was deliberately set, which would make it the latest in a series of successful and attempted arson attacks in Bnei Brak.
By Nissan Ratzlav-Katz
First Publish: 8/14/2008, 3:54 PM

A fire in a Bnei Brak synagogue on Wednesday afternoon caused severe damage to the Holy Ark and burned four
Police began to suspect the work of a serial arsonist.
Torah scrolls beyond repair. Police suspect the fire was deliberately set, which would make it the latest in a series of successful and attempted arson attacks in the city. The damaged scrolls will be buried in a traditional ceremony on Friday.

The target of the attack was the synagogue and study hall frequented by the Chief Rabbi of Bnei Brak, Rabbi Moshe Yehuda Leib Landau. Rabbi Landau immediately cut short a family vacation to return to the city when informed of the tragedy, according to the hareidi-religious website LaDaat.net. After viewing the burned Torah scrolls, Rabbi Landau consulted in private with several fellow rabbis.

The rabbis decided that the traditional mourning procession and burial ceremony for the burnt Torah scrolls will be held Friday. The procession will leave the targeted synagogue, HaRishonim, in the morning and traverse the streets of Bnei Brak until reaching the municipal cemetery, where the scrolls will be interred.

The signs that the fire was deliberately set and that it targeted the Holy Ark have raised suspicions that the event is connected with multiple arson attacks in Bnei Brak in April and May of this year. Two synagogues sustained light damage in one night, while the Holy Ark of a third was set on fire the following night. After three synagogues were damaged in similar fires over the space of two days, police began to suspect the work of a serial arsonist. No suspects have yet been apprehended in the ongoing investigation.

In May, about a week after the series of three arsons in Bnei Brak, an unidentified man was spotted apparently trying to set fire to yet another synagogue. Worshipers arriving on the scene chased the would-be arsonist away, but he succeeded in dousing the Holy Ark with flammable material and defacing it with graffiti.

Periodically over the last decade there have been instances of waves of vandalism and other attacks on synagogues in various cities in Israel. When the vandals have been successfully apprehended, it has often been the case that the attacks were perpetrated by non-Jewish immigrants from the countries of the former Soviet Union. The most extreme manifestation of the phenomenon was the activity of a Russian-speaking neo-Nazi cell in the Tel Aviv region in late 2007.

Using Jewish donor funds, the Jewish Agency brought to Israel some 1,000,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union, of which an estimated 300,000 are not Jewish.