Sight of Charred Torah Scrolls a ‘Stab to the Heart,’ Says Karmei Tzur Spokesman (INTERVIEW)
“It was like being stabbed in the heart,” a prominent member of the Israeli community that awoke on Saturday to discover that an adjacent synagogue had been torched and a stack of Torah scrolls set on fire told The Algemeiner on Sunday.
Yehuda Vald, a spokesman for Karmei Tzur, a settlement in the Judean Hills, was describing his reaction and that of his neighbors to what police and fire department officials determined to be an arson attack on the Givat Sorek synagogue, likely committed by Palestinians from a nearby city.
The symbolism, said Vald, “is inescapable from many angles.”
“In the first place, the synagogue was named after Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah — the three teenage boys kidnapped and killed by Hamas terrorists in June, 2014. In addition, it was located at Givat Sorek, an outpost named after 23-year-old Eyal and his pregnant wife, Yael, killed when terrorists infiltrated Karmei Tzur in June 2002. Finally, if our enemies are still burning our holy books in modern Israel, it is sadly reminiscent of past Jewish history.”
But, Vald added, the community did something equally — albeit spiritually — symbolic with the charred holy texts.
“We placed the burnt pile on a table outside of our main synagogue with a dirge from the ‘Kinnot’ recited on Tisha B’Av, which begins: ‘A flame shall burn within me, when I raise on my heart, my leaving Egypt. And I will awaken lamentations, so that I shall remember my leaving Jerusalem,’” Vald recounted.
He also referred to IDF concerns, reported on Israel’s Channel 2, that though the destruction of holy books was a terrible thing, more importantly, the event underscored the ability of terrorists to infiltrate Karmei Tzur, populated by some 200 families.
“Indeed, this brought back memories of the Sorek murders,” Vald told The Algemeiner. “And it served as a reminder of how close the Arab villages are from us. The structure that was burned on Friday night is a half-a-minute walking distance from people’s homes.”
Vald concluded by asserting that the arsonists – suspected of hailing from the Palestinian city of Halhul, south of Hebron – “knew exactly what they were targeting and why. They were perfectly aware of the ceremony held to dedicate the synagogue to the three murdered boys; they knew that on Friday night, we would all be at home with our families celebrating Shabbat; and they specifically chose to remove the Torahs from the ark, stack them in a pile and set them on fire; they weren’t indiscriminate in their arson. It was purposeful and meaningful.”
Meanwhile, as Israeli security forces searched the area to locate and apprehend the perpetrators of the Karmei Tzur attack, news emerged of a similar case discovered last week in the Hebron Hills, the Hebrew news site nrg reported.
According to the report, a group of IDF soldiers conducting a training exercise in the Yatir Forest came across charred remnants of what appeared to have been a caravan used as a synagogue.
“We were in the middle of a navigation drill, and suddenly we noticed the ashes,” one of the soldiers told nrg. “Quickly we understood that it had been a synagogue that had been burned down. We found burned holy books, prayer shawls, phylacteries and even a Torah ark.”
The soldiers said the caravan appeared to have been stolen from another location and recently moved to the site where they found it. They told nrg that they collected all the remaining fragments and passed them on to the rabbi of their unit.
According to nrg, the Har Hevron [Mount Hebron] Regional Council is investigating the incident.