Ancient Israeli synagogues defiled by Jewish attackers
May 29, 2012 at 4:03 pm, by Timna Burston
Overnight on Monday, an indescribable attack was carried out on one of Israel’s greatest artistic treasures, an ancient synagogue. Unknown assailants entered the site of Hamat Tveriah, one of Israel’s most ancient synagogues, and spray-painted hateful comments on its mosaics, and smashed images of the Aron Hakodesh (Holy Ark of Torah). The horrifying thing is that, according to police suspicions, the people who did this are Jews and they did it in the name of their Judaism.
Several of these attacks have been carried out throughout Israel in the past few weeks. Radical ultra-Orthodox assailants have been systematically attacking mosaics in ancient synagogues throughout Israel in protest over the Israel Antiquities Authority’s practices.
The attackers claim (through graffiti that is splattered on the walls and floors of these ancient synagogues) that Israeli archeologists have been defiling graves in their digs. Even though Israeli Archeologists take great precautions to avoid doing this, and have tried repeatedly to explain that the graves found in the digs do not actually belong to Jews, these explanations have fallen on deaf ears.
It is hard to explain the historical value and importance of these sites to Art History, to Judaism in general, and its ties to Israel in particular. The mosaics, which have been found throughout the country and especially in the north, are irrefutable evidence of the lives of Jews in Israel during the second-temple period. They show images of the Holy Ark, of Menorahs and of biblical stories. They are inscribed with words of Torah. They show important cultural influences, as they often depict the zodiac and reflect Greco-Roman influences on the Jews. They are the heart of living, vibrant Jewish communities. And they stood for 1,600 years before an unknown attacker hatefully took a sledgehammer and lodged it in the heart of the image of Aron Hakodesh.
“The damage is irreversible,” local archeologist Dina Avshalom Gorani told Channel 2 news, “it is unlikely that the public will ever be able to come and admire the synagogue as it once was […] The mosaic floor stood for 1,600 years, until a vandal came and destroyed so many years of history.”
The site was discovered in 1920, when workers were paving the road to Tiberius. While it is hard to give a definitive date to the synagogue mosaics, the mosaics on sight are thought to be from 286-337 BCE.
The ultra-Orthodox vandals who allegedly carried out this attack are sending us a clear message: They do not care what we hold holy as Israelis, as Jews, as artists. They do not care that these are synagogues that they are defiling. They do not accept the sanctity of this synagogue, just a few miles away from the seat of the Sanhedrin in Tiberius.
This is a declaration of war on ancient Jewish culture and artifacts. It is a declaration of war on the democratic system in Israel and on academic freedom. If you care about Israel, about Judaism, about art, join us in calling for justice against these attackers. Join us in saying loud and clear – no one will defile our synagogues. Not even other Jews.
Tags: academia, ancient Jewish culture, archaeologist, Ark, Aron, Aron Hakodesh, art history, artifacts, astrology, Chamat, Channel 2, democracy, dina avshalom gorani, freedom, gorani, graffiti, greco-roman, greek, Hakodesh, Hamat, Haredi, Hebrew, Holy, Holy Ark, Israel, Jewish culture, Menorah, Mosaic, roman, Second Temple, Synagogue, Teveria, Tiberias, Tveria, ultra-Orthodox, Zodiac, ארון, ארון הקודש, הקודש, חמת טבריה, חרדי, טבריה, מנורה, קדש, קודש