Melbourne synagogue evacuated as pro-Palestinian rally turns violent

Police evacuated Melbourne synagogue during Friday night Shabbat services as a pro-Palestinian demonstration became violent.

By Israel World News Staff

A Melbourne synagogue was evacuated on Friday over fears of chaos erupting from a pro-Palestinian rally at a nearby park.

The Central Shul in Caufield – a neighborhood home to 40% of Melbourne’s Jewish population – was evacuated halfway through Friday services when police and security recommended worshippers leave as a safety measure. There were 150 congregants in the synagogue at the time.

Synagogue members expressed regret at having their Shabbat services interrupted because of the increasingly hostile atmosphere. They wrote, “A synagogue is a safe haven, a place of refuge, calm and peaceful, filled with prayer, song and inspiration. Shabbat, by its very definition, is a day of rest, reflection and serenity.”

“Sadly, this Friday night, for our community, that feeling of refuge, calm, and serenity was shattered. The freedom to practice our religion without fear or intimidation was jeopardized.”

Although the evacuation was inconvenient and marred the peace of Shabbat for many congregants, concerns over impending violence proved to be valid as violent clashes broke out in the neighboring park between several hundred pro-Palestinian and pro-Israel demonstrators.

The pro-Palestinian demonstration had been relocated to Princes Park because of a fire that was set earlier in the day at a burger place owned by an Arab-Australian. Despite suspicions expressed by the owner, the authorities didn’t have evidence to ascribe a racial motivation.

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A fight erupted late Friday at Princes Park among 400 demonstrators, 200 on each side. The police dispersed the crowds with pepper spray. One man experienced minor injuries after being hit with a rock.

Melbourne has been relatively quiet since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war, at least compared to Sydney. On the day of the October 7th massacre, a pro-Palestinian demonstration gathered in front of the Sydney Opera House, and crowds yelled, “Gas the Jews.”