AMSTERDAM (Jul. 30)
The former main Ashkenazi synagogue in The Hague in the Wagenstraat in the center of the city has been occupied by some 100 Turkish Moslems who want to use it as a prayer hall, particularly during the month of Ramadhan. They claim that the prayer hall they now use in The Hague is unsuitable and moreover a fire hazard. After the occupation of the synagogue by the Turkish Moslems last Friday afternoon the prayer hall burned down. It is suspected that some of the Turkish Moslems set fire to the hall themselves.
The municipality will allow the Turkish Moslems to stay in the synagogue for the time being. They are prepared to leave it they are offered other accommodations. Meanwhile, they have removed the pews and placed them in the courtyard and covered the floor with prayer carpets. The number of Moslems in The Hague at present, largely so-called guest workers, is far larger than the 2000 Jews who live there.
The synagogue, which is more than 150 years old, was abandoned a few years ago since it was too large for the present Jewish congregation. In addition, most worshippers had moved to outlying neighborhoods. The Ashkenazi congregation bought a former Protestant church in Bezuidenhout for use as the synagogue and community center.
It had intended to cover the costs of the purchase and alteration of the new building by selling the old synagogue but as this was on the list of government protected monuments which cannot be demolished, it was unable to find a buyer. Earlier this year, when the Ashkenazi congregation was threatened with bankruptcy it obtained permission from the Ministry of Culture to have the synagogue removed from the list of protected monuments. The Hague municipality was then prepared to buy the synagogue which it intended to demolish and construct another building. Transfer of the synagogue became official a few days ago.