Monday, September 18, 2006

Tajikistan 's only synagogue attacked

For the second time in a month, vandals this past week attacked the last remaining synagogue in the city of Dushanbe, capital of the Central Asian republic of Tajikistan, in what is believed to have been an attempt to set the building on fire", Michael Freund of the Jerusalem Post reports (with thanks: Albert).

"Last Wednesday, two youths approached the synagogue and hurled a Molotov cocktail into the courtyard, which burst into flames," David Gourevich, the Chabad-Lubavitch movement's chief rabbi of Central Asia, told The Jerusalem Post by phone from neighboring Uzbekistan, where he is based.

"Two elderly Jews who were inside at the time saw the youths and began to chase them, but they managed to get away," he said, adding that local police were called but failed to intervene.

The incident marked the second time in the past month that the synagogue has come under attack, the rabbi said.

On August 18, unidentified assailants started a fire in the building and fled the scene. The flames damaged some curtains before being extinguished. The perpetrators were never caught.

"The authorities are refusing to provide protection for the site, and say that it is the Jewish community's responsibility to pay for security," Gourevich said. "But the community does not have any money to pay for guards or security on its own."

The Dushanbe synagogue garnered international attention earlier this year, when Tajik authorities announced plans to raze it in order to make way for the expansion of a presidential palace.

In February, demolition teams began tearing down the century-old synagogue, but halted in the wake of an international outcry, though not before they had managed to destroy the community's mikve, an office and a classroom.

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