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Vandals hit two Tenn. synagogues

NEW YORK (JTA) — Two synagogues within a mile of each other in Tennessee were vandalized.

The rabbi of one of the West Knoxville synagogues does not believe the incidents, which occurred last week, are connected to Israel’s military operation in the Gaza Strip.

"There was a demonstration by an Islamic group last week and that’s been about it — a peaceful demonstration, I might add," said Rabbi Louis Zivic of the Heska Amuna Synagogue in West Knoxville.

Rocks thrown by unknown vandals damaged Zivic’s synagogue, as well as Temple Beth El. Both synagogues are on Kingston Pike.

At Temple Beth El, which sustained more severe damage than Heska Amuna, four of the six 50-year-old stained glass windows were smashed, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. The damage was reported to the police and the local FBI office.

Synagogue members covered the windows and held a Sabbath service on Jan. 2.

Sgt. Amy Matina, who is heading the investigation of the case for Knoxville Police, was unavailable for comment.

Attacks on synagogues have spiked in the United States in places such as Chicago, and in Europe in Britain, France and Belgium, since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead on Dec. 27.

Zivic, who is hesitant to call the incidents hate crimes, said the vandalism was an irregular interruption of the community’s quotidian tranquility.

"Things have been really quiet here," he said. "We generally have enjoyed good relations with our neighbors."

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