Two synagogues in the Iranian city of Shiraz were attacked by vandals who damaged Torah scrolls, prayer books and ritual objects, Haaretz reports.
The city’s Kashi Synagogue was attacked Sunday night, while the Hadash synagogue was attacked Monday afternoon, according to Sam Kermanian, senior advisor to the Iranian-American Jewish Federation, who has been in touch with Jews from Shiraz. The local Jewish community believes the attacks were committed by more than one person, but does not know who perpetrated them or why.
“Obviously they are scared,” Kermanian told JTA. “They’re not comfortable speaking freely, but overall, life goes on.”
The vandals ripped Torah scrolls, which are written on parchment, as well as some 100 prayer books, some of which were thrown in the toilet. They damaged and “soiled” prayer shawls and tefillin, the leather phylacteries traditionally worn by men during prayers. The attackers also broke glass and stole silver ornaments that adorned the synagogues’ Torah scrolls.
Blurry footage aired by the television channel purported to show the damage in the synagogue. The local Jewish community said it has no leads on the identity of the vandals, but suspects that more than one person was involved, JTA reported. The community member said the damage was documented by a pair of journalists and three local Jews.
A third synagogue in southern Iran was reported vandalized on Wednesday, with attackers damaging Torah scrolls, prayer books, and ritual objects by a suspected group of vandals in the city of Shiraz.
The vandalism targeting Jewish places of worship in the city came as Iran’s parliament voted unanimously on Wednesday to recognize Jerusalem as the “permanent capital of Palestine” in response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s backing of Israel’s claim on the disputed Holy City earlier this month.
“In light of these clearly anti-Semitic incidents we call upon the authorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran to ensure the protection of all places of worship as well as all members of our community, and to bring the perpetrators of these criminal acts to justice,” read a statement by leaders of the Iranian-American Jewish Federation.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations also condemned the attack.
“We are deeply concerned by the reports of the vandalism of the Hadash Synagogue in the Maaleh neighborhood of Shiraz in which several Torah scrolls were desecrated and many prayer books destroyed. We call upon the authorities in Shiraz and the central government in Tehran to take all necessary steps to protect the community and bring the perpetrators to swift justice,” the Jewish group said in a statement.
Two years ago, an ancient Torah scroll stolen from an unnamed synagogue in the same city was returned to the local Jewish community after it was found by the Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Basij paramilitary unit.
The Jewish community of Shiraz, which today numbers about 2,000, according to Kermanian, has faced adversity before. In 2000, 10 members of the community were sentenced to prison terms for spying for Israel. The US government and Jewish organizations protested the charges and verdict.
Iran had between 80,000 and 100,000 Jews before the 1979 Islamic Revolution but most have since fled, mainly to the United States, Israel and Europe. There are now only about 8,500 left, mostly in Tehran but also in Isfahan and Shiraz, major cities south of the capital.
With one designated member of parliament, Iran’s Jewish community is one of four officially recognized religious minorities. Armenian Christians have two designated MPs, and Assyrian-Chaldeans and Zoroastrians have one each.About 10,000 Jews live in Iran at present.
Kermanian said there has been heightened use of anti-Semitic propaganda in Iran in recent months.