Arsonists attack Crete Synagogue

Posted: 1/17/2010 12:14:00 PM
Author: AP and Haviv Rettig Gur
Source: This article originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post online on Jan. 17, 2009.

Arsonists attack Crete synagogue
by AP and Haviv Rettig Gu

The Etz-Hayyim Synagogue in the Greek city of Hania on the island of Crete has been targeted by arsonists for the second time in three weeks, police said on Sunday.

An unknown number of people entered the building in the city of Hania, broke through a first-floor door and started a fire, they said. The attack occurred around 4 a.m. (0200 GMT) Saturday.

The fire brigade said the blaze partly destroyed the synagogue's wooden ceiling, as well as many of its archives, computers and CDs. It estimated the damage at $43,000.

The Etz-Hayyim Synagogue was restored in the late 1990s after years of neglect in the wake of the Second World War. The nearly 300 members of the Hania Jewish community were shipped out by the Nazi invaders in 1944, and died when their ship was sunk in transit by an Allied torpedo.

It serves as a place for prayer, a museum and memorial, and a library recording the long and troubled history of Crete's Jews.

The synagogue was nearly burned to the ground on January 6, in the previous attack. That fire was set at around 1 a.m. early Wednesday, but a neighbor who was awake at the time noticed the smoke and called authorities and the synagogue's director Dr. Nicholas Stavroulakis. The staircase led to the second-story women's section of the main sanctuary in the small seaside complex.

About 2,500 books, many of them rare editions, were destroyed in this and a previous arson attack three weeks ago, police said on Sunday.