Sunday, November 2, 2008

Arabs torch Acre yeshiva

Police and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) have arrested three Arab youths in Acre suspected of torching an office in the city's hesder yeshiva last week, it was announced Sunday.

Police said the motives appeared to be nationalistic. The suspects - Ibrahim Bayuni, 29, Khaled Shaaban, 20, and Salah Titti, 20 - said they carried out the attack to avenge violence against Arabs during the Acre riots.

The blaze, caused by a Molotov cocktail, badly damaged the office and threatened to reignite the rioting that battered the city for several days starting on Yom Kippur.

The yeshiva, Ru'ah Tzfonit (The Spirit of the North), will make a conscious effort to show its Arab neighbors that it will not be intimidated by the attack, members said.

"We are here to stay," Dorel Avramovitz, the yeshiva's administrative director, said last week. "We will not cave in to bullying…we refuse to make any changes that would give the impression that we are intimidated by Arab threats."

Yeshiva head Rabbi Yosef Stern said the arsonists were "a group of bullies who are threatened by our Zionist, Jewish activities here. But we will not be dragged into a confrontation with them, nor will we deviate from our goal of strengthening the Jewish presence in the city."

Ru'ah Tzfonit is located in Acre's Wolfson neighborhood. Approximately three-quarters of the area's residents are Arab. Four years ago the yeshiva, which opened in 2001, relocated to Wolfson to reinforce the dwindling Jewish community and to reopen a synagogue that had closed. The yeshiva currently has 170 students.

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