- Sam Gruber
You read it first in English on this blog (thanks to Point of No Return reader Ahoova). Now the sad news of the looting and wrecking of the newly-restored Beth-El synagogue in the Tunisian city of Sfax has been confirmed, although the Tunisian press has stayed mum. Jean Corcos has put together the following report for the French-Jewish organisation CRIF which I have summarised in English:
The news was broken on the web by the Sfax-born Israeli Camus (Yigal) Bouhnik. The vandalism took place around 18 August, during Ramadan. About 30 elderly Jews still live in Sfax. Security has been lacking since the Jasmine Revolution broke out eight months ago. There used to be a 24-hour police guard under the Ben Ali regime, but the police are now engaged elsewhere quelling unrest and lawlessness.
The police are now preventing access to the interior of the building. Those who want to enter must apply for the keys to the head of the local Jewish community, Mr. Zarka. We do not yet have photos of the damage.
Those responsible left no trace of external damage, and no graffiti on the facade: this was confirmed by a Tunisian Muslim friend.
How come nobody saw the vandals? The Beth El Synagogue is located centrally, opposite a large coffee shop crowded at night during the month of Ramadan.
For the benefit of the busloads of pilgrims, Torah scrolls were kept in the synagogue yet the Ark was forced open in what Corcos describes as a 'malicious and antisemitic act'.
Marble plaques honouring benefactors who helped to refurbish the place were smashed.
Dozens of silver Kandil plates were taken. Tunisian Jews follow the custom of honouring their dead by lighting candles dipped in oil. The beaker containing the wick is itself attached to a plate of silver on which were engraved names, dates of birth and death. Sfax had a collection of the kandils of all abandoned synagogues in the city in cardboard boxes inside the Synagogue Beth El : they were all stolen.
The collection boxes for pilgrims' donations were also taken.
The windows of the synagogue, which had been repaired during the great restoration three years earlier, were smashed.
Lastly -'outright villainy', in the words of Jean Corcos - the apartment next to the Synagogue owned by the charitable organization OSE was completely stripped of its contents - from household appliances to the air conditioning unit.
Read article in full (French)