Police said Monday they have opened a special investigation into an arson attack on a synagogue belonging to a stream of Judaism, which is in the minority and is looked down on by Orthodox Jews.
Three scrolls of the Jewish holy book, the Torah, as well as prayer books, religious objects and furniture valued at several thousand dollars were destroyed Saturday night in the fire.
Rags soaked in gasoline had been set alit by unknown attackers in the Conservative synagogue in the Ramot neighborhood of disputed east Jerusalem, police said.
Although the name of the Jewish movement is Conservative, it is a more relaxed version of Judaism than that of the Orthodox. Tension between Orthodox Jews and those of the tiny Conservative and Reform movements in Israel has been high.
The synagogue's rabbi, David Bateman, said "neither secular Jews nor Arabs committed this act of vandalism. It's difficult to imagine that a Jew could be capable of that."
The attack was widely condemned in Israel. Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau said: "Those who burn books burn men."
The special police units investigating the arson are also looking into a possible link between the attack on the Ramot synagogue and an attack early Monday on a synagogue belonging to a "messianic Jewish" group which believes Jesus is a Jewish prophet.
Orthodox Jews have, in the past, protested against Conservative Jewish women praying at Jerusalem's Wailing, or Western, Wall while clad in ritual gear traditionally reserved for men - OCCUPIED JERUSALEM (AFP)
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