Man Charged With Damaging 'Misnamed' Synagogue in Ofakim

27-year-old charged with vandalizing local synagogue because he doesn't like its new name.

A 27-year-old Ofakim resident was charged this week with vandalizing his local synagogue because he doesn't like its new name. This is his third arrest over the theft or defacement of a sign in front of the newly renovated building that bears the synagogue's name.

"I will not accept the synagogue changing its name," Yuri Ben-Yaakov told police. "Its name is 'The Synagogue of Bukharan Jewry,' and it will stay that way."

Police say Ben-Yaakov, who was indicted Monday on charges of malicious vandalism and violation of a restraining order, was angry over a decision to rename the building in honor of the grandfather of a congregant who funded a massive renovation that began seven months ago. Given the dire physical condition of the building, the synagogue immediately agreed to the name change.

"He's a raging bull," one of the congregants said of Ben-Yaakov. "Despite all the restraining orders that have been issued against him, he continues to defy everybody and return to the synagogue. The main thing for him is that the name of the donor's grandfather not appear over the building." Ben-Yaakov was arrested for the first time several weeks ago, after the sign bearing the synagogue's new name was stolen and the front door of the synagogue was found painted over in several different colors. He confessed to the theft and vandalism and was issued a restraining order. He was arrested and released again after the sign was stolen a second time.

This time the sign was broken and interior doors and walls were painted over.

Police arrested Ben-Yaakov on Thursday and asked that he be held in custody until the end of the proceedings against him.

"Yuri simply did not let up," said a police source in Ofakim. "He was determined to ruin the renovations. If he is released again, we are certain that he will come back and destroy the sign again."