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Cops Investigate Synagogue Bombing

June 26, 2000

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Police on Monday investigated the weekend firebombing of a Jerusalem synagogue, which was condemned by Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak as a shocking act.

Affiliated with the Conservative stream of Judaism, the Ramot Forest synagogue in a well-to-do section of Jerusalem’s Ramot neighborhood has been the target of demonstrations and protests by Orthodox Jews. Three weeks ago, unknown parties tried to burn its entryway.

In Saturday night’s attack, windows of the synagogue were broken and burning rags thrown inside, police said. The attack occurred shortly after the end of the Jewish Sabbath at sundown Saturday.

Yonatan Leibowitz, spokesman for the Conservative movement, said several prayer books and chairs were burned, and he estimated the damage at several thousand dollars.

``The act is especially shocking, having taken place in Jerusalem, the eternal capital of the state of Israel and of the Jewish people,″ Barak said Sunday.

No arrests have been made in the firebombing or the previous incident, police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said. He said police had ruled out an attack by extremist Palestinians.

The Conservative movement is not formally recognized in Israel, and its membership is tiny compared to the official Orthodox Jewish branch. The Conservative movement and its fellow liberal stream, Reform, represent the majority of Jews abroad.

Rabbi Ehud Bandel, president of the Conservative movement in Israel, charged that the lack of a firm response by authorities after the attack three weeks ago sent a message to extremists that ``in the Jewish state, it is permissible to set fire to synagogues and no one cares.″

In another weekend attack, a sanctuary where Messianic Jews worship in downtown Jerusalem was broken into Sunday night and a Torah scroll was stolen, Ben-Ruby said. The assailants also appeared to have made an unsuccessful attempt to set the sanctuary on fire, leaving behind rags soaked in a flammable substance, he said.

The police said they are checking whether the incident was connected to the firebombing of the Conservative synagogue.

Messianic Jews accept Jesus as the messiah, while maintaining Jewish rituals and practices most other Christians have abandoned.

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