Religious Activity Makes Rabbi Target in Dagestan


by Staff Writer - Dagestan, Russia

July 25, 2013

Police authorities suspect anti-Semitism was the motive of the shooting attack early Thursday morning on the Chabad-Lubavitch representative in Dagestan, a predominantly Muslim province of Russia.

Artur (Ovadia) Isakov, 40, emerged from his car in front of his home at 1:00 a.m. in Derbent, when he was shot by an unknown man who escaped the scene. Makhachkala, Dagestan’s capital, was identified as the city where the Boston bombers’ parents were located during their sons’ terrorist attack on the Boston Marathon last April.

Isakov sustained several gunshot wounds including an exit wound in the chest and was taken to the Derbent central city hospital in grave condition. An Israeli medical team is on its way from Israel to assess the rabbi’s wounds and transport him to Beilinson Hospital in Israel, where he will continue to be treated.

According to the Russian Investigative Committee, it was the rabbi’s religious activity that made him a target of extremists. Isakov and his family made their home in Dagestan nine years ago, to serve the city’s local Jewish population (approximately 5,000) with a host of Jewish educational and social service activities. He and his family were targets once before in 2007, when vandals entered their home while they were present.

In a statement issued by Ramazan Abdulatipov, acting president of Dagestan, “extremists and terrorists who do not want a happy, normal life for us all,” are to blame for the attack.

“Only ignorant people, enemies of Dagestan, are able to do this. Dagestan is outraged,” he wrote in a statement.

Much of the tension is rooted in an internal Islamic conflict between traditional Sufi groups advocating secular government and more recently introduced Salafist teachers preaching the implementation of Sharia law in Dagestan.

Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar urged law enforcement agencies to “take all legitimate actions to eliminate the jihadist underworld.”

“The attack on the rabbi, as well as the previous attacks on Muslim figures, have pursued the goal of destabilizing all of society and undermining the noble pillars upon which our country’s unity has been built for centuries,” Rabbi Lazar said.

At Chabad-Lubavitch World Headquarters in New York, Rabbi Yehuda Krinsky asked that the international community pray. for the recovery of the Chabad representative who has courageously dedicated his life to serving Jews and humanity in a dangerous region.

“We should never take for granted the selfless dedication that shluchim [emissaries] exercise every day in their commitment to serving Jewish people, especially when that entails the kinds of sacrifices that Rabbi Isakov and his family have made in choosing to fulfill the noble calling of serving as Chabad representatives.”

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