Bulgaria: Prayer for Peace held in Sofia Central Synagogue

A Prayer for Peace was held in Sofia Central Synagogue in Bulgaria’s capital city on October 15, to honour the memory of the innocent victims of the unprecedented terrorist attack against Israel that began on October 7 and to pray for a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

The ceremony, which filled the Great Hall of the Synagogue, was organised by the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria Shalom, the Central Israelite Spiritual Council, the Federation of Zionists in Bulgaria, the Organization of Friends of Israel in Bulgaria Negev and the Bulgarian office of the American Jewish Committee.

It was attended and addressed by head of state President Roumen Radev, Speaker of the National Assembly Rossen Zhelyazkov, Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandukova, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Maria Gabriel, Israeli ambassador to Bulgaria Yosef Levi Sfari and Acting Prosecutor-General Borislav Sarafov.

Apart from leaders and members of the Bulgarian Jewish community, also in attendance were leaders of other religious faiths, Justice Minister Atanas Slavov, members of the ruling majority including Deputy Speaker Nikola Minchev and Ekaterina Zaharieva, former Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov, the ambassadors of other European Union countries and the United States and United Kingdom ambassadors, as well as Georg Georgiev, formerly Bulgaria’s National Coordinator of the Fight Against Antisemitism.

A moment of silence was held for the victims of Hamas’s savage terrorist attacks.

Professor Alexander Oscar, President of Shalom, said: “I use this opportunity to thank the Bulgarian people, the politicians and public figures who expressed their unconditional support to the people of Israel and strongly condemned the terrorist attack last week”.

Israeli ambassador Sfari condemned the brutal attacks, said that the past days had seen the largest numbers of Jews murdered since the Holocaust, and said that everyone could make their choice – whether to support Israel or to support terrorism.

President Radev said: “In these sad days after the horrific terrorist attack by Hamas against Israel, we pay our deepest respect to the memory of all the innocent victims”.

Bulgaria strongly condemns the unprecedented attack against the State of Israel and the deliberate killing of civilians. Terrorist actions and violence can never be justified in any way and for any political cause, Radev said.

Speaker of the National Assembly Zhelyazkov said: “We, the Bulgarians, call many nations friendly – such is our value system forged over millennia, but the Jewish people for us, the Bulgarians, are fraternal”.

Bulgaria’s Parliament adopted on October 13 a declaration expressing unwavering support for Israel and condemning Hamas’s terrorist attack on the country.

Deputy PM Maria Gabriel said that Bulgaria condemned in the strongest possible terms the brutal terrorist attacks by Hamas in Israel.

Gabriel said that every effort should be aimed at ending terror: “Israel is within its right to defend itself in accordance with humanitarian and international law. The hostages must be released without any preconditions. Regional escalation must be prevented”.

Sarafov said: “The Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of Bulgaria will prosecute all manifestations of radical Islam. Everyone must assume their human role and hate speech will not be allowed.”

Mayor Fandukova said that the feelings that had followed the terrorist attacks on October 7 were those of pain and sadness: “Pain for the victims and anger for the terrorists. A prayer for peace, for all the dead, a prayer for the suffering to end.”

Amid the sombre ceremony, emotions ran high as musician Miro sang the traditional song Shalom Aleichem.

The ceremony closed with the playing of the Bulgarian and Israeli national anthems.

(Photos: Clive Leviev-Sawyer, parliament.bg, president.bg, and Sofia municipality)

Clive Leviev-Sawyer

Clive Leviev-Sawyer is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of The Sofia Globe. He is the author of the book Bulgaria: Politics and Protests in the 21st Century (Riva Publishers, 2015), and co-author of the book Bulgarian Jews: Living History (The Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria 'Shalom', 2018). He is also the author of Power: A Political Novel, available via amazon.com, and, on the lighter side, Whiskers And Other Short Tales of Cats (2021), also available via Amazon. He has translated books and numerous texts from Bulgarian into English.