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Defective Shabbat Timer Causes Major Synagogue Blaze

A defective Shabbat timer was apparently the cause of a major fire at a Chabad synagogue in a neighborhood of Jerusalem
By David Lev
First Publish: 5/19/2013, 5:52 PM

Firefighting truck (archive)
Firefighting truck (archive)
Flash 90

A defective Shabbat timer was apparently the cause of a major fire at a Chabad synagogue in the Givat Shaul neighborhood of Jerusalem over the weekend. The fire, which broke out on Shabbat afternoon, did extensive damage to the building, but no one was hurt. The fire consumed many of the synagogue's holy books, but the Torah scrolls remained safe, thanks to the steel safe they were stored in. They were later removed safely by synagogue members.

A worshipper in the synagogue confirmed to Arutz Sheva in an interview that the defective timer, which turns lights and air conditioners on and off, was the most likely cause. A short in the timer apparently generated sparks or a small fire, which quickly spread, the member said. “It's a terrible sight to see,” he said in the interview. “It hurts to see a synagogue go up in flames.”

With that, he said, the Torah scrolls – the most important feature of the synagogue – were safe. “The firefighters extended themselves to ensure that the flames did not reach the Holy Ark where the scrolls are usually stored,” the worshipper said. The ark's interior consists of a steel structure, which doubles as a safe to prevent the scrolls from being stolen. The safe also contributed to the scrolls' safety, he said.

The scrolls were removed when firefighters succeeded in dousing the blaze. Synagogue officials, surveying the damage, feared the worst when they open the Ark, but to their astonishment, “there was a miracle and there was almost no damage to the scrolls, other than a little ash” that had gotten on them when the safe was opened, the worshipper said.