Vandals desecrate ancient Tiberias synagogue; authorities suspect Haredim (HAŽARETZ NEWS) By Eli Ashkenazi 05/30/12)
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The fourth-century Hamat Tiberias Synagogue was desecrated Monday
night by vandals who sprayed graffiti on the walls and tore up the
mosaic floor. The Israel Antiquities Authority suspects extremist
ultra-Orthodox Jews who say the authority damages ancient graves
The vandalism was discovered yesterday morning by employees of the
Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
Similar acts have been carried out at other archaeological sites; one
slogan sprayed Monday night read "A site for every grave
[desecrated]." Another read "For Shuka," probably referring to Shuka
Dorfman, the head of the antiquities authority.
One employee burst into tears yesterday when viewing the vandals´
work. "Afghanistan is right here," another added.
Tiberias police are investigating the case, while the authority is
trying to tally the damages and figure out if anything can be
The synagogue, in Hamat Tiberias National Park, was discovered in
1921 by writer and translator Nahum Slouschz. It was uncovered in the
first major archaeological dig led by Zionist Jews in the Holy Land.
"The most beautiful part of the mosaic from the fourth century was
severely damaged," said Dror Ben Yosef of the antiquities
authority. "The perpetrators drilled a hole in the drawing of the
holy ark and damaged the menorah drawing as well. It seems they
worked very hard trying to take apart the floor."
A zodiac wheel drawn on the mosaic appears to have been hit by a
pickax. "There are Haredim who believe that if a zodiac wheel is
drawn there, it can´t really be a synagogue," Ben Yosef told
Haaretz. "The zodiac wheel, in this case, is actually a judaized
Helenistic motif." One corner of the mosaic was completely taken
Ben Yosef added that the synagogue was "probably the site where the
Jerusalem Talmud was completed" and that the mosaic contained
important symbols such as a holy ark with an ornamental curtain,
along with a menorah, a shofar, a ceremonial palm frond and a coal
The mosaic included inscriptions in Hebrew, Aramaic and Latin. Ben
Yosef said extremist Haredim have threatened other sites. "We´ll
protect the sites," he said. "Whoever vandalized it desecrated its
holiness. These people damaged our historic heritage."
Dina Avshalom-Gorni of the antiquities authority said conservation
and restoration work would be carried out, but this wouldn´t be
"It will never be the same mosaic that people prayed on 1,600 years
ago," she said. "You can feel and learn here how people once lived,
prayed, studied and talked. It will never be the same. We´re facing a
vandalist drive against heritage sites that´s gaining momentum.
Something has to be done to stop it."
In the past two months several other archaeological sites have been
damaged. A mosaic was vandalized at Hurvat Hanut near Jerusalem, a
1,300-year-old furnace was damaged near Yavneh, and a container
holding artifacts was set on fire in Afula.
"Public servants who safeguard our historical heritage have also been
threatened recently," Avshalom-Gorni added. "It´s definitely a
frightening situation." (© Copyright 2012 Ha´aretz 05/30/12)
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