Israeli police suspect arsonists are behind two suspicious fires that totally destroyed one synagogue, and damaged a second, in two locations during Shabbat.
At the hardest-hit location, a portable structure parked at a rest stop along Highway 6, the conflagration completely destroyed Torah scrolls, prayer books, sets of tefillin and other religious garb.
“I can’t believe it; I can’t comprehend who would want to do something like this,” rabbi Shmuel Rosenberg, who ran and led services at the shed, murmured in despair, according to Israel’s Ma’ariv daily.
The Chabad-run facility, along the major north-south artery, served weekday motorists and bus passengers taking a break at the gas station and restaurant.
The rest area is near the Israeli Arab town of Baka al-Gharbiya, and close to the 1948 Armistice Line (Green Line) between Israel and the West Bank.
Picking through the dozens of charred tefillin that remained, he managed to find only one useable pair, according to Ma’ariv.
“I only hope the police will act to find those responsible,” he said.
In the second incident, at a synagogue in Petah Tikva, fire and smoke damaged the ark holding the Torah scrolls, according to the newspaper. The Torah scrolls inside, however, escaped the fire unscathed.
An unknown arsonist set alight flammable material poured on the closet which holds the sacred scrolls, investigators said.
“Over the last few months, synagogues are being set ablaze – and world leaders are silent,” said Deputy Religious Affairs Minister, Eli Dahan.
“I expect them to condemn these acts the same way they’d condemn similar incidents against other religions,” he added.
“The police must use every tool at their disposal in order to find the perpetrators, and deal with them severely,” he said.