Synagogue bombing unnerves South African Jews

The blast shattered the ornate stained-glass doors and windows inside the synagogue, one of the oldest in the Cape Town area.

The bombing shocked the suburb of Wynberg, once a stronghold of Cape Town Jewry and now occupied by a large number of Muslims.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Muslims and Jews lived side by side on the street where the Orthodox shul sits, and a number of Muslim shops were situated nearby. But after the government began strictly enforcing an act determining where certain groups could live, Muslims were restricted to an area in Wynberg less than a mile from the synagogue.

Cape Town's Muslim community has a high percentage of fundamentalists and extremist groups supported by Iran and Libya.

Although no group claimed responsibility for the bombing, some consider the blast to be the work of Muslim fundamentalists, who were also accused of placing bombs in a Jewish home and bookstore in an adjacent suburb in 1997 and at the Planet Hollywood restaurant on the city's waterfront in August.

"It is probably in retaliation for the U.S. bombing of Baghdad," said Rabbi Rafi Wolff, the synagogue's spiritual leader.

Wolff, who lives in a house next to the shul, said services at the synagogue would continue.

"This has only served to strengthen our resolve to intensify our activities. The entire community has been incredibly supportive. And instead of staying away, we doubled our attendance at the morning minyan today," he said.