Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Outrage over cemetery desecration


Police have questioned at least five people in connection with vandalism at Johannesburg's West Park cemetery, where more than 30 graves in the Jewish section have been vandalised.

Joburg area commissioner Superintendent Chris Wilken said on Monday that no arrests had been made, but police were working to find the culprits.

The Jewish community has reacted with outrage at the desecration of the graves.

"We are upset about this act of vandalism... It's unacceptable behaviour," said Zev Krengel, chairperson of the Jewish Board of Deputies in Joburg.

Saying the incident was not anti-Semitic, Krengel appealed to the police to root out "this criminal behaviour" because it was not the first time it had occurred at West Park.

Tzivia Grauman, community manager for the Jewish Helping Hand and Burial Society, also did not think the attacks were anti-Semitic, saying they were "purely criminal".

She added that the community had already started repairing some of the graves. Johannesburg City Parks spokesperson Jenny Moodley confirmed that the graves were damaged on Monday.

She said that while City Parks ensured that damaged graves were restored, the families affected bore responsibilities in cases of severe damage. Grauman added that although some graves were vandalised at Brixton cemetery last year, vandalism of Jewish graves at cemeteries was "very random and isolated".