In Muslim Indonesia, tiny Jewish community lives on

The modest synagogue on Sulawesi island is the only synagogue in the nation of 255 million people.

AFP,

Flag of Indonesia
Flag of Indonesia
iStock

In a remote corner of the Indonesian archipelago, a modest synagogue stands in a tiny Jewish community that has found acceptance despite rising intolerance in the world's most populous Muslim-majority country.

The red-roofed building on Sulawesi island is the only synagogue in the nation of 255 million people. Here, unlike other parts of the country, the Jewish community feel safe to practice their faith openly.

"We can wear the kippah (Jewish skullcap) in the mall or anywhere we want, it's not a problem," Yobby Hattie Ensel, a Jewish leader from the nearby city of Manado told AFP.

In the city of Tondano on Sulawesi, the "Shaar Hasyamayim" synagogue sits close to several churches and residents of different religions live, work, and worship alongside each other without incident.

But across the archipelago, intolerance has risen in recent years as more conservative forms of Islam have become popular, driven by increasingly vocal hardline groups.

Outside the safe haven on Sulawesi, those who refuse to hide their faith have faced hostility.

Yaakov Baruch, an Orthodox Jew who runs the Tondano synagogue, revealed how he was threatened with death in a Jakarta busy mall as he walked along with his pregnant wife.

"From a few floors up, they shouted at me 'Crazy Jew'," he told AFP, adding the group of men then ran towards him and demanded he remove his skullcap.

"They said to me: 'We don't want you to use your kippah in this country. If you continue to use it, we'll kill you'."

In 2013, the country's only other synagogue in the city of Surabaya was demolished. It had been the site of anti-Israel protests for years, and was sealed off by hardliners in 2009 and left to decay.


More Arutz Sheva videos:


top