The latest fire managed to destroy all of what we had felt grateful to have been left with! Whatever we had salvaged from the first fire had been taken to the main office – books, CDs, a Mevelevi dervish habit and conical felt hat, some of my notebooks and the like. The second attack saw the ground floor and first floor of the office and library above gutted. Fortunately, all of the books there – perhaps 1000 or so on Judaism, Islam and Christian theology had already been moved to safe keeping and so have been saved….but two computers, scanner, cameras etc. – all gone!
The police have been very good with us and have been very thorough and sensitive to what has happened. In the following days we will try to be more prompt in giving information. Actually in many ways Etz Hayyim has succeeded in its role as a reconciler and I have been blessed with finding many old friends and we have re-established our links. Equally important is the effect that this has had on our ‘fraternity’ which has been strengthened and given a firm direction and truly has become a community. We are a strange lot – some Jews – religious, non-religious and some perhaps even anti-religious, some are Christians – both Catholic as well as Orthodox and we also have Muslims. All of us are cemented into a community through the magic of this precious synagogue. Through this fire – somewhat like that which our Father Abraham experienced on that night when the sacrifices were consumed and he stood in awe before what appeared to be a smoking oven, we have digested our differences and set about finding what unites us in silence and emerges as a whisper.
We are still in the difficult period of balancing work that must be done with incoming funds as they were disproportionate at the moment.
To date we have started work on the new security system which is a gift from the Jewish Community of Salonika through its president David Saltiel. Work has begun on the grill to be installed over the back garden gate as well as the bars that are to be installed over all of the windows that were once those of the yeshiva (this property became an asset of the Bank of Greece after WW II and then was sold to a Christian – and subsequently became known as the Synagogue Cafe.) It was through one of these opened windows that the second incendiary entered our property. The electrician has already connected some of our lines and tomorrow we will get the telephone installed – in the synagogue proper (for the moment). Alex and Anja (and the Synagogue) have a temporary office and computers not too far away and the work on the stairs to the old office may well be finished by the end of the week when work can be started on cleaning up, working on bookcases and seeing how deep the fire reached into the floor and ceiling. This will also have to be done in the Kal itself as several of the wooden panels of the ceiling had started to burn.
I wish to thank all of the friends who have shown such care for this synagogue which seems to have embraced and been embraced by the entire world.