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West Bank Synagogue Vandalized

October 27, 2000

EFRAT, West Bank (AP) _ Vandals damaged a synagogue in this West Bank settlement on Friday, spray-painting anti-Semitic slogans and Nazi swastikas on the walls and flooding the building. Settlers said they suspected Palestinian intruders.

Settlers discovered the damage when they arrived at the synagogue for morning prayers.

Some slogans were written in clumsy Hebrew, others in Arabic. One praised Adolf Hitler, another Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. ``God doesn’t like Muslim grief,″ a third one read.

The vandals opened water faucets and flooded the building, said Efrat Mayor Eitan Golan. He said they stole the faucets and charity collection boxes but did not disturb Torah scrolls.

Treatment of holy sites has been central to a month of deadly clashes between Israelis and Palestinians. Palestinians began rioting after a hard-line Israeli politician visited a disputed Jerusalem site that is revered by both Muslims and Jews.

During the riots, Israel abandoned a Jewish site in the Palestinian city of Nablus, and Palestinians quickly destroyed it. Then Palestinians burned an ancient synagogue in Jericho, which the Palestinian Authority later repaired.

Eve Harrow, who moved to Efrat 12 years ago from Los Angeles, called the vandalism at the synagogue ``a pure act of terror to strike fear.″

The 2-year-old building has two rooms _ a sanctuary for prayer and a library, where vandals poured soft drinks over the books. Teen-ager girls labored to clean the books page by page.

About 8,000 Israelis, most of them Orthodox Jews, live at Efrat, between Jerusalem and Hebron in the West Bank. Golan said that the settlement is not enclosed by a fence, and anyone can walk in.

He said security will have to be increased. ``Today they spray paint. Tomorrow they could spray gunfire.″

Palestinians consider the settlements illegal encroachments on their land and demand that they be removed.

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