Living in Crete :: Crete's Only Synagogue Torched Valuable Books Lost

It seems that living in Crete Greece poses the same level of risk for British and Irish Jewish residents as anywhere else in the world. Chania police arrested two Britons and a Greek for breaking into the Etz-Chaim (Etz - Hayyim) Synagogue on January 22 torching and destroying valuable books and other items, and seeking two Americans who are thought to have masterminded the attack. The Chania police cite "hate for Jews" as the reason for the crimes which took place on January 5 and 16, 2010. The attacks have been labelled the worst in Greece against Jewish property in recent years.

The lost books were unique. Much information was lost from the destruction of computer equipment and disks in the synagogue. The anti-Semitic attack comes as a surprise to local Crete authorities where this kind of crime aginst the Jewish community is almost unheard of.

The Etz-Chaim (Etz- Hayyim) Synagogue has a special place in Chania's history. As the synagogue's website states: Until 1999 Etz Hayyim was a desecrated house of prayer that remained the sole Jewish monument on the Island of Crete after the destruction of our Jewish community in 1944. Essentially it stood as a monument to the success of the Nazis in obliterating 2300 years of Jewish life on the Island of Crete. From 1996 until the year of its re-dedication in 1999 the structure has been painstakingly restored.

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Two Britons & A Greek Arrested Over Synagogue Arson In Crete
January 25, 2010

The authorities on the Greek island of Crete have arrested two Britons and a Greek after arson attacks on a synagogue, police said Friday.

The 24-year-old Greek confessed, while the Britons, aged 23 and 33, denied any involvement, according to Costas Liotsakis, the island’s deputy police chief.

The attacks on January 5 and 16 seriously damaged the Etz-Chaim synagogue in the town of Hania, northwest of Crete.

The Britons have been living in Crete for three months and all three suspects work as touts for tourist spots in the town.

The Greek suspect said the 33-year-old Briton, from the northwestern city of Manchester, had started the fire on January 16, Liotsakis said.

He also accused two Americans, saying one of them led the January 5 attack, the officer added.

Police are now looking for the two Americans, though they do not have details of their identity.

A police source said the group was motivated by “hostility towards Jews”.
The three arrested are suspected of entering the Etz-Chaim synagogue via an adjacent building and starting fires, destroying archives and equipment including computers and CDs.

The director of the synagogue, Nikos Hanaan Stavroulakis, said 2,500 rare books were destroyed and called on the authorities to take action against the “anti-Semitic and racist” attacks.

Greek Justice Minister Haris Kastanidis publicly condemned the attacks and a human rights group called them the worst anti-Semitic incidents in Greece in recent years.

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