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Synagogue hit by Israeli bombs

By JULIE FLINT

BEIRUT, Lebanon -- Not even the few Jewish residents of Moslem west Beirut or the city's only synagogue have been spared the destruction of Israel's 10-week blitz of the Lebanese capital.

'Here is a place for Jews to pray,' Esther Sarur, 77, said angrily. She stood at the entrance of the damaged synagogue as Israeli planes screamed overhead Thursday in their most sustained bombardment of the Lebanese war.

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'Why do they damage it? I don't know,' said the tiny lady, one of the few Jewish residents remaining in besieged west Beirut. 'Always, always they bomb. Day and night. I don't know why. God knows. Every day. Morning and night.'

The sand-colored synagogue in Beirut's Wadi Abu Jamil neighborhood was hit by a shell Sunday and now has a gaping hole in its roof. Rubble is scattered all over the courtyard in front of the capital's only Jewish house of worship.

Esther's second-floor home, a long climb up slippery, winding stairs, also was damaged by a shell that shattered all her windows.

Now she lives under a grubby old colonnade behind the synagogue, sharing one large room with an old man, another Jew. Some 20 people, mostly Lebanese Moslems, joined them, driven from their homes by Israeli shelling and bombing.

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They are tired and dirty. Esther, somehow, is impeccable in a white bodice and, over it, a pink nightgown with lacy pockets. She eats boiled chicken out of a plastic yogurt container.

But supplies are short, and Mrs. Sarur has little money to buy what food is available. 'This,' she said, shaking a plate-sized piece of Arab pita bread, 'cost half a pound (10 cents) and it's bad. Look.' It was tinged with green.

There is no wheat to make bread in west Beirut because of Israel's 6-week-old blockade aimed at forcing the evacuation of an estimated 9,000 PLO guerrillas holed up among the 500,000 civilians in the western sector of the capital.

'I am all alone. The others,' -- her family -- 'left and died,' she said.

Jewish residents said about seven Jewish families remain in west Beirut. The families with money crossed into the city's Christian sector to escape the bombing.

Israeli officials have tried to convince some of the Lebanese Jewish families to come to live in Israel.

But asked whether she would make the short trip south across the border, Esther shook her head vigorously. 'No, no, no,' she said. 'I am old. How can I leave?'

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