President Shocked by Arson at Bnei Akiva Synagogue

Informed of the sacrilege by Arutz Sheva, President Rivlin immediately called Bnei Akiva secretary general.

Gil Ronen ,

Prayer books vandalized in Nazareth Illit.
Prayer books vandalized in Nazareth Illit.
Elishama Sandman

President Reuven Rivlin read “with shock” on Arutz Sheva's website Thursday of the vandalism and sacrilege at the Bnei Akiva branch in Nazareth Illit, which targeted a synagogue inside the structure.

Shortly after Arutz Sheva contacted the President's staff to ask for his reaction to the attack, the President's Spokesperson, Naomi Toledano, contacted us to say that the President's first step after learning of what had happened was to immediately call Bnei Akiva Secretary General Danny Hirshberg.

Hirshberg told President Rivlin that as of yet, there is not enough information about what happened and the identity of those responsible for it, and added that he is doing all he can to calm the spirits and bring the branch back to regular activity.

The President commended Hirshberg after hearing that the Bnei Akiva branch intends to hold a traditional all-night Torah study session (tikkun) at the branch on the Shavuot holiday, in just two days's time, despite the attack.

President Rivlin told Hirshberg that he will "be there for him" with whatever assistance is needed, regarding developments in the investigation and in bringing activity at the branch back to normal. He expressed his support for an initiative to hold a meeting between the branch youth and the neighborhood's Arabs immediately after the holiday.

"Only dialogue will lead to closeness and understanding,” the President said. “We must not let harsh and shocking incidents like this one recur.”

The President's staff thanked Arutz Sheva for alerting them to the incident.

In a suspected act of nationalistic vandalism by local Muslims, prayer books and other holy books in the synagogue were were desecrated and burned. In addition, Israel flags were defiled, equipment cabinets were overturned, fluorescent lights were broken and paint was spilled in every direction.

Sources in Bnei Akiva said that the branch has been in operation for 40 years, and that one of its main goals is to strengthen Jewish pride in the city.

The branch is located in the city's northern neighborhood, which has seen large scale encroachment by Arabs. In recent years, the branch has suffered repeated harassment by Arabs, who often show up at the location – sometimes pestering the Jewish youths.

In the past, nationalists have been critical of the President, over what seemed like a double standard regarding hate crimes. While suspected hate crimes against Muslims and Christians have consistently elicited strong responses from President Rivlin and his predecessor, Shimon Peres, similar acts against Jewish targets appeared to pass with no visible reaction from the number one citizen. Similar criticism has been leveled at the nation's political leadership, Chief Rabbis and media.