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Last Javan Synagogue Destroyed

Alas, bad news from Indonesia, which otherwise has managed its counter-radicalization program well in recent years. The last synagogue in Java—a historical building that predated Indonesian independence—has been destroyed after having been blockaded for several years by Indonesian Islamists. From the Jakarta Globe:

The last vestige of one Indonesia’s oldest and largest Jewish communities is now just a pile of rubble. Beth Shalom in Surabaya — Java’s one and only synagogue — was demolished in May after being sealed off by Islamic hard-liners in 2009. “It’s not clear when exactly it was demolished and who did it,” Freddy Istanto, the director of the Surabaya Heritage Society (SHS), told the Jakarta Globe. “In mid-May, I was informed by a member of the SHS that the synagogue was destroyed. In disbelief, I went over there and it had been flattened.”

The Jewish community in Indonesia may have withered, but the protection of such heritage sites is crucial to any semblance of tolerance in society. Many hardline Islamists seek to not only rid their present society of religious and sectarian diversity, but also retroactively cleanse their past so that the presence and contribution of minorities are forgotten. Indonesia now has only one synagogue left. Let us hope that the Indonesian government will not once again turn a blind eye. To do so will be to convince radicals that they have carte blanche to act outside the law, and will convince the outside world that Indonesia’s reputation for moderation and tolerance is ill-deserved.


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