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      Arab-Stolen Torahs Returned to Jerusalem Synagogue

      Nine Torah scrolls have been saved in six days: three from a fire and six recovered from Arab thieves.
      By Hillel Fendel
      First Publish: 7/28/2009, 1:56 PM / Last Update: 7/28/2009, 6:07 PM

      Six Torah scrolls stolen from a Jerusalem neighborhood were recovered by police near an Arab village, and three others were saved last week from a fire in Afula.

      Six Torah scrolls and a host of other religious items were stolen from the Ohr HaChaim synagogue in Pisgat Ze’ev, a northern Jerusalem neighborhood, several months ago. Police detectives embarked on an intensive mission to find them – and their efforts were crowned with success this week.

      Together with the Torah scrolls, also stolen were shofars (rams’ horns used on Rosh HaShanah and the days preceding it), silver goblets, and other items.

      Intensive police effort resulted in the discovery that the thieves were Arabs from the nearby village of Hizme. The sacred – and expensive – items were found this week in the vicinity of the northern-Jerusalem Hizme checkpoint, through which thousands of cars travel every day.

      The recovered Torah scrolls and other items were handed over to the sextons of the synagogue in a moving ceremony in the office of the Deputy Police Commander of the Jerusalem District, Niso Shacham. Present were Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites, as well as Jerusalem District Police Rabbi Eliyahu Mughrabi, and many policemen who took part in the efforts to recover the stolen Torah scrolls.

      Rabbi Rabinovitch addressed the participants, noting the “redemption of the spirit” involved in the mission, as well as the great merit of those who had a role in it. “During these special days when we mourn the destruction of the Temples and await the Redemption,” he said, “we pray that the redemption of these Torah scrolls, the eternity of the Jewish People, will bring in its wake the complete national redemption as well.”

      Just a few days ago, three other Torah scrolls were saved from a fire in the Jezreel Valley city of Afula. Firemen arrived at the small Rabbi David Moshe Cohen Synagogue on Trumpeldor Street in Afula Illit to find it filled with and enwrapped in heavy smoke. The firemen broke in, saw that no one was inside – and immediately ran to the Holy Ark, despite the intense heat, to save the Torah scrolls.

      “The most important thing at that point was to save the Torahs,” said fireman Yuval Asulin. “After we took them out, we put out the fire and dispersed the smoke.”

      No one was hurt and damage was relatively light, the firemen reported.