A politically motivated vandal spray-painted “Free Gaza” three times on a structure erected in New York City to observe the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.
By: Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
A structure built on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in honor of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot was vandalized early Sunday morning, with the words “Free Gaza” spray-painted in black three times on its cloth walls.
Jews build such temporary structures (“sukkah”) for the week-long holiday of Sukkot, called in English the Feast of Tabernacles, as a reminder of national life in the desert after liberation from Egyptian slavery over 3,000 years ago. They eat in these structures, and – weather and safety permitting – some even sleep in them.
The anti-Israel message was reported at about 8 AM, the New York police said, adding that the city’s Hate Crime Task Force would be investigating the incident as a possible bias crime.
The structure had been set up for the use of Jewish passersby in Carl Schurz Park near Mayor Bill de Blasio’s official residence, Gracie Mansion. He reacted quickly to the news, tweeting, “Defacing a sukkah is unacceptable and an attack on our city’s values. If you have any information on this act of vandalism, please contact the NYPD.”
The Anti-Defamation League of New York and New Jersey also weighed in on Twitter, saying it was “appalled” by the images of the vandalism, and calling the targeting of a premises used for religious purposes during the holiday “beyond the pale.”
Rabbi Ben Tzion Krasnianski of the local chapter of Chabad, the Jewish outreach movement responsible or erecting the vandalized sukkah, was disgusted by the sight, but would not answer with similar sentiments.
“To come this morning and see this vicious act, insult, there is just no room for this hatred in New York City,” he told the New York Post, adding, “The only response we know, and the way we’ve responded for the last 3,800 years is to respond to darkness with light, to hate with love and to negativity with positivity.”
Working swiftly, a few volunteers painted over the graffiti with phrases such as “Shalom” and “Sukkah of Unity” so that by the afternoon, all evidence of the crime had disappeared.
Meanwhile, preparations continued for a public celebration of the Torah on Monday night on the street outside the Chabad House near the East River, dubbed the “Demonstration of Jewish Pride.”
The celebration marked the holiday of Simchat Torah that ends the High Holy Day season in the Jewish calendar.