David Bitan, vice president of the Jewish community in Venezuela, told Ynet that late Friday night a number of assailants broke down the synagogue’s door and threw scripture books on the floor, then proceeded to graffiti the hateful slogans on the walls.
“We found the guard on the floor, he had been threatened with a gun,” Bitan said. “Until 3 am they destroyed the offices, opened the Ark of the Covenant, and threw the Torah books on the floor.”
He said the Jewish community had filed an official complaint with the police. “This is a very complicated situation for the Jews in Venezuela. The slogans were not against Israel but against the Jews,” he said.
Bitan added that the community has been troubled by numerous anti-Semitic acts over recent years, and a spokesman for the Federation of Jewish Communities in Venezuela, Daniel Ben-Naim, said the incident testified to the increasing hatred of Jews in the country.
“We’ve never had such an incident. It looks well-planned,” he said. “We were afraid something like this would happen. The official press was becoming more and more anti-Israeli and anti-Jews. There are hundreds of anti-Semitic articles, ads, and fliers.”
An Israeli residing in Caracas said images from the ravaged synagogue had been displayed in the local media. He said he had seen that another slogan, “Death to the Jews”, was also sprayed in the synagogue.
Relations between Israel and Venezuela became strained over the IDF operation in the Gaza Strip. Caracas severed its diplomatic ties with Israel after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez slammed Israel’s actions as “inhumane”.
On Wednesday the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem announced that it had ordered Venezuelan diplomats in Israel to exit the country by the end of the week. In response, Caracas stated that the country was proud its diplomats had been expelled, and called Israeli leaders criminals.ADL Condemns Violent Attack on Caracas Synagogue
New York, NY, January 31, 2009 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today condemned the violent attack on a Caracas synagogue and called on President Hugo Chavez to promptly and publicly denounce this heinous anti-Jewish hate crime and to quickly bring the perpetrators to justice.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, issued the following statement:
Just days after the international community commemorated the Holocaust in ceremonies of remembrance throughout the world, a synagogue in Caracas was the scene of a modern day Kristallnacht. For five hours, violent anti-Semites profaned and vandalized the most sacred space and objects of Jewish life, leaving behind graffiti that said “Get out,” “Death to All,” and “Damn Israel, Death.” This violent attack occurring on the Jewish Sabbath is reminiscent of the darkest days leading to the Shoah, when Jews were attacked and synagogues and Torahs vandalized and destroyed under the guard of the Nazi regime.
Sadly, this is not a random event in Venezuela; it is directly related to the atmosphere of anti-Jewish intimidation promoted by President Chavez and his government apparatus. The time has come for Mr. Chavez to abandon the official government rhetoric of demonization of Israel and Jews and to publicly denounce this wanton act of anti-Semitic violence. President Chavez must ensure that his government quickly brings the perpetrators to justice.
We call upon President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil and Cristina Fernández de Kirchner of Argentina to insist that Mr. Chavez live up to the commitments he made in the joint Declaration Against Racism he recently signed with them, which includes an obligation to combat anti-Semitism.
ADL stands with the Confederación de Asociaciones Israelitas de Venezuela (CAIV) in these difficult times and we join in their appeal to the Venezuelan government to guarantee the protection of all of its citizens including the Jewish community of Venezuela.