Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, Deputy Religious Affairs Minister, condemned two incidents of arson incidents over Shabbat. “As Shabbat ended I heard about these incidents and was shocked,” he said. “In recent months there have been numerous such incidents. Meanwhile, government officials remain quiet.”
In once incident, a synagogue in Petach Tikvah was set afire on Shabbat afternoon. The Beit Yaakov synagogue was empty of worshippers at the time of the fire, police said, adding that the building was burned down by an arsonist.
An initial investigation indicated that the perpetrator entered the building unnoticed and poured a flammable liquid next to the Holy Ark, where the Torah Scrolls are kept. The arsonist then set the Ark on fire and ran away. The Ark, made of steel, was damaged, but the Torah scrolls inside were safe. However, there was much damage to the rest of the building.
In the second incident several hours later, a caravan belonging to the Chabad movement was set afire as well. The caravan is located at a gas station rest stop north of Netanya on Road 6. The caravan is used by drivers who stop off to pray on their way to or from their jobs. It did not have a Torah scroll inside, but did have many prayer books, many of which were burned in the blaze, with the caravan damaged beyond repair. Witnesses said they smelled gasoline at the site. Police have opened an investigation.
“I expect the government to condemn these incidents and to do something to stop them,” said Ben-Dahan. “That is what they would do if the targets of arson belonged to other religions. Police must use all the tools at their disposal to apprehend the culprits and to deal with them properly,” he added.