The three-foot-high message sprayed inside a Beverly Hills synagogue last weekend was not just graffiti vandalism but a threat in the form of a Bible passage written in an ancient language, a rabbi alleges.
Between 10 p.m. Friday and 5 a.m. Saturday, one or more people entered the Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue, a congregation of Jews who accept Jesus as the Messiah.
Inside, the vandals overturned the large cherrywood ark that houses the Torah, a handwritten-scroll of the first five books of the Bible, and spray-painted words that, loosely translated, mean: God has numbered your days; you have been weighed in the balances and have been found wanting; your kingdom is divided.
"This act was done to try to discourage us from being who we are," said Ahavat Zion Rabbi Stuart Dauermann. "There is too much ideology in the way that it was carried out to be a simple act of vandalism. Vandalism is random, and this is not random."
The message consisted of only four words and was written in Aramaic, a language similar to Hebrew. The passage was from the fifth chapter of the Old Testament's Book of Daniel, in which mysterious writing on the wall warns of the impending doom of King Belshazzar.
No other damage was done to the sanctuary, which occupies a portion of the Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church on South Beverly Drive. The space is used by several other organizations, including a congregation of the Four-Square Gospel Church and a Korean Presbyterian church, but Ahavat Zion is the primary tenant.
Beverly Hills police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.
Last weekend was the second time in two years that the building has been vandalized in what Dauermann called "an ideological act." On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in 1993, a valuable Torah was stolen from the ark. No one was arrested for the burglary, police said.
The synagogue is not affiliated with the organization Jews for Jesus, but the congregation's beliefs are virtually identical to those of the controversial group.
"I'm convinced most Jewish people decry acts like this," Dauermann said. "I think it was someone from a radical group or lunatic fringe."