Home to a Jewish community of about 3,000 on the eve of World War II, Indonesia now is thought to have a mere 200 Jews; only one synagogue remains in use. Olivia Rondonuwu writes:
In [the city of] Tondano, the Shaar Hashamayim synagogue sits close to several churches and residents of different religions live, work, and worship alongside each other without incident.
Indonesia has long been praised for its moderate, inclusive brand of Islam—and this enclave of diversity is a testament to that. But across the archipelago, intolerance has risen in recent years as more conservative forms of Islam have become popular, driven by increasingly vocal hardline groups.
Tensions in the Middle East, particularly between Israel and the Palestinians, spill over here and deepen religious divides. Outside the safe haven on the island of Sulawesi [where the synagogue is located], those who refuse to hide their faith have faced hostility. Yaakov Baruch, an Orthodox Jew who runs the Tondano synagogue, revealed how he was threatened with death in a busy Jakarta mall as he walked along with his pregnant wife [while wearing a kippah]. . . . Faced with such open hostility, the Jews in [Jakarta] worship in secret. . . .
Christian churches and mosques where Muslim minorities pray have been closed due to pressure from hardliners. Shiites and Ahmadis—regarded as heretics by some Sunnis—have been forced from their homes in mob attacks and on occasion even killed. . . . Due to their small number and the fact most live in the shadows, the nation’s Jews have not been a major focus of radical Islamic anger in Indonesia and have largely escaped the serious attacks directed at other minorities.
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