Greece: Arson Again in Hania Causes Further Destruction at Historic Synagogue!
by Samuel D. Gruber
(ISJM) They have struck again! On Friday night, just a few hours after the conclusion of Shabbat services, and ten days after arsonists burned part of the historic Etz Hayyim synagogue in Hania, Crete, they again succeeded in setting fire to the (mostly stone) building, and causing more - and serious - damage to the sanctuary, to the archives and the Director's office. Dr. Nikos Stavroulakis has written about the new fire on the synagogue blog, and photos of the damage have been posted here.
The new destruction comes as a blow to the Hania congregation and its many friends in Greece and throughout the world. In Hania, there had been progress in cleaning up the mess of the January 5th fire, and assessing damages and costs for repairs and replacement. In the last few day ISJM had received over $5,000 in contributions from thirty contributors. now the work is even greater - but so is the resolve to succeed.
A few cowardly neo-Nazi bullies and thugs cannot have their way. They cannot destroy a beautiful project, building and community that it has taken twenty years to rebuild.
I encourage all my readers to keep contributing. Donations for repairs can be sent to:
International Survey of Jewish Monuments (ISJM)
118 Julian Place, Box 210
Syracuse, NY 13210
(write Hania in the memo line)
ISJM is 501 (c) 3 charitable organization and contributions are tax-deductible according to law.
I also urge you to write to your country's embassies in Greece urging them to pressure authorities to fully investigate and prosecute this crime, and to write to the Greek embassies in your own countries about the same. I will shortly post contacts and addresses to make this easier.
Here is Nikos' report of Friday night's fire:
On the night of Friday, January 15, after more than a week of work on the sanctuary – newly scraped, primed and re-painted; the wood-work oiled with lavender and the marble floor polished – we met for Erev Shabbat prayers and Kiddush. Later we locked the synagogue and returned to our homes feeling that we had set our steps forward. Saturday morning at 3:30 AM however the Synagogue’s director was wakened by the alarm that had been set off in the Synagogue and rushed there accompanied by two helpers to find the entire main office ablaze. They began putting out the fire with the garden hose as the firemen had not yet succeeded in getting their hoses connected. When the mains were finally connected the firemen set to work – by 4:45 the fire was only smoldering and all that remained of the upper and lower office was completely gutted. Also about a third of the wooden ceiling of the Synagogue itself was burnt, the benches covered in soot and broken wood, the floor a mess – but the EHAL was not touched!
Everything in the main office – e.g. two computers, complete Talmud, Midraschim, 2 sets of Rashi lexicons (Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew) plus many reference books and the entire archive of the Synagogue have all been destroyed. By noon the Siphrei Torah along with all of the silver ornaments (rimonim, tassim, yads etc.) and a precious early 17th century illuminated Qur’an were removed to a secure location. It was a sad moment to see them being taken away from the Kal as it was a joyous moment when they had been installed in 1999. But we are determined that they will come back!