Friday, January 22, 2010

Two Brits and a Greek National Arrested For Arson of Crete Synagogue, One American Still at Large


This arrest is in response to a series of TERRIBLE attacks on the ancient Jewish population of Crete and their synagogue. In this attack, hundreds of volumes of rare books and records were lost--a loss that can never be replaced.

My hear mourns for this loss, and I pray that the Greek authorities have arrested the right people, and that they will face not only Greek justice, but DEVINE Justice for their acts.

May Hashm be more compassionate than I would be.


Greece: Arrests made in arson attacks on synagogue
Friday, January 22, 2010
By Martin Barillas

On January 22, police apprehended three men who are accused of setting alight an historic synagogue on the Greek island of Crete earlier in the month. Two Britons and a Greek national were arrested, while a US citizen is also sought in connection to the January 16 attack that caused extensive damage to the roof of the 16th century synagogue, its computers, and thousands of precious books. Police have identified the culprits of two assaults on the synagogue as nightclub employees. The two Britons are in their early 20s while the Greek is 33-years-old. They will appear before a prosecutor next week.

Alarmed by the arson, Moses Constantinis of the Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece, said "I can't say I'm happy now; they should have arrested them earlier, after the first attack and not leave the synagogue unprotected."

The Ets Chavim synagogue, in the seaside town of Chania, was set alight twice in 12 days. Serving also as a museum of Jewish life, the synagogue had not received any special protection following the first attack earlier in the month. Since December 2009, extremists described as “fascists” in the media have stirred up the local population. Even while the fascists’ activities had been little noticed, former prime minister Constantine Mitsotakis (91), a native of the area, had voiced concern. “Chania is placing itself apart from the rest of Greece,” he said.

The Jewish presence in Greece goes back at least 2,300 years. And the Holocaust also touched the Aegean country when nearly all of the Jewish population of the northern city of Salonika (Thessaloniki) was deported by a specially organized train directly to the Auschwitz death camp in Poland where they were exterminated. At the beginning of the Second World War, the Jewish community in Salonika numbered 48,000 and is now nearly extinct. A monument to their memory was not erected until 1997 and is regularly denigrated with anti-Semitic graffiti and swastikas. On the island of Crete, the last 370 Jews who had not been exterminated there by the Nazis there were put on a ship in 1944 with German soldiers. The ship was bombed by the British. There were no survivors.

Fears of organized anti-Semitism have been piqued recently, not only by the arson in Crete, but also by attacks on Jewish monuments, houses of prayer and graves in Yannina, Volos, Athens, Salonika and Larissai.

The Kathemerini daily of Athens published three articles during the week of January 17-23 expressing concern over the violence and apparent official indifference. No attention to the attacks has been visible on local television and the Greek minister for civil protection has been publicly silent.

In 1995, Greek writer Manolis Rasoulis expressed contentment that Crete had been cleared of Jews, leading to a complaint by the Central Jewish Council in Athens. However, years later, Rasoulis visited Israel and found Greek music was popular there. He then expressed opinions much more sympathetic to the Jewish people. In Crete. Nikos Stavroukalis, the former managing director of the Jewish museum in Athens, completed his life’s work of restoring the synagogue at Chania. It was completed in 2000, despite resistance from local authorities.

Greece, the land where democracy was born, regularly struggles with extremist nationalists and anarchists. Anarchist youths have frequently rioted over the last twenty years and burned offices at Athens University while sometimes joining Socialists and communists in demonstrations against the US and Israeli embassies. Greece also had a homegrown terrorist organization known as ‘November 17’ that assassinated numerous prominent Greeks and US diplomats and soldiers for nearly 30 years.

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