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Sunday, November 16, 2003


Neve Shalom synagogue, Istanbul

Beth Israel synagogue, Istanbul

Busy celebrating a bar mitzva, worshipers at the Neveh Shalom Synagogue in Istanbul Saturday morning were just about to return the Torah scroll to the ark when a huge blast rocked the building and shattered the windows.

Among the 23 dead in both attacks were six Jews, including a 35-year-old woman who was four months' pregnant, an eight-year old girl, her grandmother, as well as a security guard. The Jewish victims: Yoel Cohen Ulcer, 19, a guard, Anita Rubinstein, eight, Anna Rubinstein, 85, Avraham Varol, 50, Berta Ozdogan, 35, Yona Romano, 60 (who died of a heart attack after the blast).

The chief rabbi of Turkey's 25,000-member Jewish community, Isak Haleva, was lightly wounded in his hand, and his son Yosef, 29, suffered serious facial wounds and underwent eye surgery. "We were in the middle of prayers, at the end of the Torah reading, suddenly there was a big explosion," Haleva said. "All of the windows were shattered, the glass flew . . . "I found myself in shock, amid a great cloud of smoke. I was stuck in my place, someone came and took me out," he said in a telephone interview with The Jerusalem Post Saturday night.

Haleva grabbed the Torah scroll, fearful it would be damaged by the firefighters, who had entered the synagogue with hoses. Outside the building he saw his wounded son, who asked him, "What should I do?" He went with him to the hospital, and, "thank God," Haleva said, his son now seems to be recovering.

Haleva said that he hadn't believed the Jews in Turkey were at greater risk than in any other place in the world. "Terrorism exists everywhere," he said, noting that the Turkish police are particularly alert against attacks. "To do something like this when people are praying – this is truly beyond the pale of human conduct, even animals don't commit evil like this," Haleva said.

Jewish School in Paris suburb Torched

A police officer takes pictures of a the Jewish school that was destroyed by a fire early Saturday Nov.15, 2003 in Gagny, north of Paris. No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire was not immediately known but officials labeled it as 'suspect'. (AP Photo/Laurent Rebours)

In Israel, over 19,000 attacks since September 2000