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Next to Last Synagogue in Obama’s “Moderate Muslim” Indonesia Torn Down

Posted By Daniel Greenfield On June 18, 2013 @ 9:31 am In The Point | 5 Comments

It’s not exactly a great surprise, considering that Indonesia’s recent history includes genocide against Christians in East Timor and the mass rapes of Chinese women.

Still Indonesia is one of those Muslim countries that politicians like to pretend is moderate and a good example. By comparison to Saudi Arabia, it might be. By comparison to even the most elementary standards of human rights and religious tolerance… not so much.

The last vestige of one Indonesia’s oldest and largest Jewish communities is now just a pile of rubble. Beth Shalom in Surabaya — Java’s one and only synagogue — was demolished in May after being sealed off by Islamic hard-liners in 2009.

A small, Dutch-style building located on a 2,000 square meter plot of land in the middle of Surabaya’s business district, Beth Shalom looked like an ordinary house in the neighborhood. The only features that distinguished it as a synagogue were its mezuzah (Torah scrolls fastened to an entrance way) and the two Star of David carvings on its door.

“There were many artifacts inside the building which can’t be found in other heritage sites,” Freddy said.

In January 2009, Muslim demonstrators sealed off Beth Shalom and burned an Israeli flag to protest the country’s attacks on the Gaza Strip at the time.

Soemarsono, the head of the National Unity and Society Protection Agency of Surabaya, claimed that the synagogue was an illegal structure because it did not possess proper building permits.

Soemarsono, the head of the National Unity and Society Protection Agency of Surabaya, claimed that the synagogue was an illegal structure because it did not possess proper building permits.

Sachiroel noted, though, that most of Indonesia’s oldest buildings don’t have building permits since such a requirement was only introduced during the Suharto era.

“The synagogue was built before Indonesia declared its independence,” he said. “How could it have a building permit?”

Rivka Sayers, a Jewish woman of Iraqi descent, reportedly lived in the synagogue’s compound since 1970. She said that only three families regularly visited the synagogue to celebrate the Sabbath and holidays such as Passover and Rosh Hashanah.

Indonesia’s last surviving synagogue is located in Manado, Sulawesi.

From the Islamic point of view, that’s one down and one to go.


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