President Reuven Rivlin expressed deep concern Thursday over an attack on a Bnei Akiva building containing a synagogue in northern Israel after learning about the desecration from an Arutz 7 reporter who called asking for a comment.
Vandals torched a Bnei Akiva synagogue in the northern Israeli city of Nazereth Illit this week, just before the start of the Shavuot holiday that marks the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai.
Siddurim and other holy books were torn apart, burned and desecrated in other ways. Elsewhere in the Bnei Akiva building, Israeli flags were defiled, cabinets were upended, paint was splattered all over the place and flourescent lights were smashed.
Bnei Akiva has long been a source of pride in the community; the religious Zionist movement has maintained a branch in Nazareth Illit for 40 years. Five years ago, a hesder yeshiva for Torah scholars entering army service was added to the program there as well.
According to spokesperson Naomi Toledano, President Reuven Rivlin has expressed his shock over the attack to Bnei Akiva Secretary-General Danny Hirshberg.
Rivlin expressed support for a plan by Bnei Akiva to hold a meeting between the young members of the branch and neighborhood Arabs immediately following the upcoming Jewish holiday of Shavuot, which begins at the close of the Sabbath, on Saturday night.
“Only dialogue will lead to closeness and understanding,” Rivlin said. “We must not let harsh and shocking incidents like this one happen again.”
He praised plans by the branch to hold its traditional all-night Torah study session for the Shavuot holiday despite the attack.
Although it is not yet clear who perpetrated the damage and desecration, there have been numerous incidents of harassment of the Bnei Akiva youths by local Arabs in the past.