A synagogue on the Greek island of Corfu was targeted in a late-night arson attack that damaged books and community documents, local police said on Tuesday.
The unknown assailants broke into the synagogue in the old town of the island's capital after 3 am by forcing open a back door into the 19th century building, a senior officer said.
They made a pile of books and documents in front of the rabbi's platform, or bimah, on the synagogue's first floor and set them on fire, he said.
The synagogue was closed at the time and nobody was injured. The fire was spotted by a passing police patrol, the officer said.
"Tomorrow we'll hold another prayer service," promised one of the Corfu Jewish community leaders, Leno Susi. According to him, this is the first time such a hate crime has been committed there. "We still can't believe it. There's no reason for it. Our relationship with other Corfu residents is excellent," he said.
"We all cried when we saw what had happened. It was a difficult feeling that reminds me of darker times in the history of Jews in Greece. Despite all these, we're still not afraid. Times have changed but we won't give in to a crazy arsonist," stated Susi.
The Greek government has issued a statement of condemnation and the Israeli Foreign Ministry contacted the Jewish community in Corfu.
Israeli Ambassador to Greece Arye Mekel said: "Israeli-Greece relationship is in its Golden Era. Unfortunately there are still anti-Semitic people out there willing to commit villainous crimes. I've talked to the community leaders and they are receiving support from the Greek authorities and police, so despite their shock they feel safe."
Set on fire (Photo: Reuters)
Jewish community cemeteries and monuments in various parts of the country are sporadically targeted by vandals.
A similar attack on a synagogue on the island of Crete in 2010 destroyed hundreds of rare books.
Also in 2010, vandals desecrated a Jewish cemetery in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. Greece's Jewish Council said the perpetrators were Neo-Nazis who spray painted anti-Semitic slogans and swastikas on the cemetery walls and destroyed graves.
Greece's pre-war Jewish community was decimated by Nazi deportations and now numbers around 6,000 people. Around 100 Jews live on Corfu.
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