Tensions escalated sharply in early January, when Chavez expelled Israel’s ambassador to protest Israel’s military offensive in Gaza. Shortly thereafter, approximately 15 individuals attacked the Tiferet synagogue in Caracas.
According to Paul Hariton of the Caracas Ashkenazi community, the January 30 attack “was a well-organized event. The attackers were heavily armed. They jumped a wall and overcame two guards. They even took the videotape out of the security camera before they left.”
The president of the Jewish Organization of Venezuela says that “the hoodlums occupied the building” for five hours, during which time “they profaned the holy Sefer Torah, which is the Jewish holy book of prayer and laws.”
In an ominous sign for the rest of Venezuela’s Jewish community, the hoodlums also stole a computer database containing the names and addresses of all the synagogue’s members.
At first, Chavez condemned the attack. However, his government now seems intent on blaming the synagogue’s desecration on Venezuelan Jews, depicting the vandalism as “deliberately self-inflicted act aimed at discrediting the regime.”