Tunisian synagogue vandalized in suspected anti-Semitic attack

(JTA) — A synagogue in Tunisia was vandalized in what a human rights activist and some Jews described as an anti-Semitic attack.

The Beith El synagogue in Sfax, located 150 miles south of the capital Tunis, was ransacked on April 30 by unidentified individuals who littered the floor with prayer books and tallitot, or Jewish prayer shawls, according to a May 4 account by Ftouh Souhail, a human rights activist and attorney who monitors the situation of the country’s Jewish community of 1,700 people.

He said that signs indicated that “Islamo-fascists” were behind the vandalism, which he said was anti-Semitic.

Souhail quoted a 76-year-old member of the Jewish community identified as R. Perez as saying: “They tore apart walls, paintings and threw them to the floor … this is vandalism directed against the Jewish heritage of Sfax. I cried like a child at the sight of my place of worship in this state.” The account appeared Sunday on the website Dreuz.info with a video of the synagogue after the attack.

Souhail said that “available information showed the perpetrators were a group of 10 students from the Technical High School of April 9.” He said they broke into the synagogue while wearing hoods that concealed their faces.

According to Souhail, the attack last week was the third time that “pro-Palestinian elements perpetrate these shameful acts against the synagogue of Beith El.” Previous attacks occurred in August 2011 and December of 2012. In one of the attacks, the perpetrators stole silver chandeliers that weighed 120 pounds, according to Souhail’s account, which said Sfax’s Jewish community was made up of approximately 20 elderly Jews.

“Tunisia has seen a wave of anti-Semitism since the 2010 revolt,” Souhail wrote in reference to the revolution that in 2011 swept the country’s former ruler, Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, from power.

The website and Facebook page of the Tunisian interior ministry, which regularly contain updates about crimes, did not immediately offer any information on the incident.

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