Venezuela's oldest synagogue vandalized by armed men
Mon, 02 Feb 2009
The desecrated synagogue in Caracas
Armed men forced their way into the oldest synagogue in the Venezuelan capital of Caracas, defacing its administrative offices with anti-Semitic graffiti and vandalizing the interior room where the Torah is kept, officials said. About 15 men forced their way into the Mariperez Synagogue about 10 p.m. on Friday, staying until about 3 a.m., police said. They tied up a security guard at the synagogue before vandalizing the rooms. Graffiti left at the scene included the phrases "Damn the Jews," "Jews out of here" and "Israel assassins." The men also left behind a picture of a devil, authorities said. The men stole computers and administrative documents, officials said. They did not cover their faces, but took the recordings from security cameras with them.
Leaders of Venezuela's 15,000-member Jewish community said vocal denunciations of Israel by Chavez and the country's state and pro-government news media may have encouraged the attack, which they called the worst ever on their community in Venezuela. "We condemn the actions on the synagogue of Caracas," Chavez said in a televised speech. The president suggested that Venezuela's "oligarchy" who could have been behind the attack. "Who benefits from these violent incidents? It is not the government, nor the people, nor the revolution," he said.
Last month, Chavez had expelled the Israeli ambassador in Caracas and cut diplomatic ties in protest over Israel’s military campaign against Hamas in Gaza. In response, Israel also expelled the remaining three Venezuelan diplomats in Tel Aviv.
Speaking at the World Jewish Congress Plenary Assembly in Jerusalem last week, Venezuelan Jewish community president Abraham Levy Benshimol had said: "Where we live, anti-Semitism is sanctioned. It comes from the president, through the government, and into the media."
Read Abraham Levy Benshimol's presentation to the WJC Plenary Assembly - ( 1.3Mb).
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