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Greek Jews protest arson attack against Crete synagogue January 12, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Yunanistan.
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The Jewish community of Greece protested Friday after an arson attack against the only synagogue on the Island of Crete, urging the authorities to take measures in order to get rid of “similar phenomenons of anti-Semitism.”

According to local police, unknown individuals broke into the Etz-Hayyim synagogue’s yard an hour after midnight and set fire to an outdoor wooden ladder which leads to the library.

The synagogue is located in the city of Hania’s historic old quarter.

Thanks to the swift intervention of the fire brigade, the fire was extinguished immediately before it threatened the temple and the adjoining library, which features roughly 1,600 rare books and manuscripts.

Hania Fire Brigade chief said that at the scene, firefighters found a bottle with a flammable liquid still burning.

Authorities in the port city said the synagogue’s main doors were locked and that the alarm system sounded when firefighters broke down the main gate to enter the building.

The medieval Etz-Hayyim synagogue serves as a place for prayer, a museum and memorial and a library recording the long and troubled history of Crete’s Jews.

Until 1999 it was a desecrated house of prayer that remained the sole Jewish monument on the Island of Crete after the destruction of the Jewish community in 1944.

From 1996 until the year of its re-dedication in 1999 the structure has been painstakingly restored. It is mentioned on the it was still mentioned on the World Monument Fund’s list of most endangered sites.

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.

The synagogue’s director, Nikos Hanaan Stavroulakis, warned in a daily newspaper of Crete against racist act aiming in particular the immigrants in Hania.

Acts of vandalism sporadically aim Jewish cemeteries and buildings in Greece, whose community counts only a few thousands of people, after its extermination to more than 80% by the Nazis during WWII.

Last June, unknown people desecrated the Jewish cemetery in Ioannina, in the North-West of the country.

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