South African Jewish cemetery vandalized


JOHANNESBURG, Dec. 6 (JTA) — In one of the worst acts of anti-Semitic vandalism in South Africa in recent years, a Jewish cemetery in the town of Lichtenburg has suffered damage to nearly all of its graves.

About 60 graves in the cemetery were targeted in last week’s incident. More than half of the tombstones were broken, and the remainder pushed over.

There was no anti-Semitic graffiti, but in a number of instances dead snakes were left on the graves.

Several children’s graves in an adjoining cemetery also were tampered with, but the concentrated damage to the Jewish cemetery suggested that the vandalism was motivated by anti-Semitism.

The incident was reported to police by one of the last remaining Jewish residents of the town, located west of Johannesburg.

The alleged perpetrators, four pupils from a local high school, have been arrested.

Rabbi Moshe Silberhaft, a member of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, said the board recently had spent some $4,000 to restore the cemetery and build a wall around it.

“We are horrified by this cowardly and thuggish attack on our community,” Silberhaft said. “Particularly shocking is the manner in which the final resting places of the Jewish pioneers of this town have been desecrated.”

The Lichtenburg cemetery was the third Jewish cemetery targeted in the past 18 months. Earlier attacks occurred at the Maitland cemetery in Cape Town, and in Kempton Park, located outside Johannesburg.

The Lichtenburg Jewish community is no longer functioning. Organized religious services have not been held there for more than 10 years.

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