JOHANNESBURG, July 21 (JTA) — South African President Nelson Mandela has joined religious and political leaders in condemning the firebombing of a Jewish home in Cape Town. “I wish to reassure the Jewish community that the government is sensitive to its concerns regarding the terrible bomb attack which took place in Cape Town,” Mandela wrote in a letter to Marlene Bethlehem, national chairperson of the South Africa Jewish Board of Deputies. “The government condemns this act and all other actions which disturb the harmony of our society. We appeal to all our citizens to live together in peace and to respect the religious convictions of all communities.” On July 14, gasoline bombs were thrown at the home of Ivan Maron, an observant Jew who operates a Jewish book center. An estimated $50,000 damage was caused to the home, which was left uninhabitable. It took place days after a crowd of Muslims marched on the Israeli Embassy in Cape Town shouting anti-Semitic slogans. Both of the incidents were believed to have been sparked by the June 27 distribution of flyers in the West Bank town of Hebron that depicted the Islamic prophet Mohammed as a pig stepping on the Koran. Cape Town has a large, militant Muslim community. But some Islamic clerics joined Jewish and political figures in condemning the firebombing. Meanwhile, a vacant home in Johannesburg has been the target of an anti-Semitic and racist attack. Jewish and local security officials believe the incident to be unconnected to the Cape Town bombing. The townhouse had been purchased by Jews last week. But before the new owners moved in, the home was gutted by fire, vandalized and defaced with anti-Jewish and racist graffiti. Bethlehem said in an interview this week that she had inspected the property and that the culprits appeared to be “rank amateurs, who obviously don’t even know what swastikas look like.”
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