On the night of Friday, January 15, after more than a week of work on the sanctuary – newly scraped, primed and re-painted; the wood-work oiled with lavender and the marble floor polished – we met for Erev Shabbat prayers and Kiddush. Later we locked the synagogue and returned to our homes feeling that we had set our steps forward. Saturday morning at 3:30 AM however the Synagogue’s director was wakened by the alarm that had been set off in the Synagogue and rushed there accompanied by two helpers to find the entire main office ablaze. They began putting out the fire with the garden hose as the firemen had not yet succeeded in getting their hoses connected. When the mains were finally connected the firemen set to work – by 4:45 the fire was only smoldering and all that remained of the upper and lower office was completely gutted. Also about a third of the wooden ceiling of the Synagogue itself was burnt, the benches covered in soot and broken wood, the floor a mess – but the EHAL was not touched! Everything in the main office – e.g. two computers, complete Talmud, Midraschim, 2 sets of Rashi lexicons (Aramaic, Greek and Hebrew) plus many reference books and the entire archive of the Synagogue have all been destroyed.
By noon the Siphrei Torah along with all of the silver ornaments (rimonim, tassim, yads etc.) and a precious early 17th century illuminated Qur’an were removed to a secure location. It was a sad moment to see them being taken away from the Kal as it was a joyous moment when they had been installed in 1999. But we are determined that they will come back![nggallery id=17]
January 17, 2010. Today, after Shahrith prayers in the ravaged Kal we will all meet to look into the task before us. We must insure that we keep the Synagogue alive as place for prayer and even – more pertinently under the circumstances – recollection. It is difficult at this moment to quite grasp how one faces the formidable task of reconciliation – with what exactly? ignorance, wickedness? – whatever it was – and is – (since the cause of all of this is still to be determined) our gift to Hania is our presence and our determination to continue to bear witness to values that are being severely tried at this moment. We have many friends and are deeply grateful for the support in whatever form it has taken. It will now take some time for us to become contemporary as so much has been lost in terms of computers and contents (though we have located the hard drives of the computers and hopefully something can be done to contents).
Please keep posted through this blog as matters evolve as we will use for keeping a log of events.