2 Jewish Israelis sentenced over brutal assault of Palestinian during May 2021 riots

Noam Elimelech given 11 years, Naftali Elmakayes gets 4.5 years for stabbing, beating restaurant worker they sought out for being Arab; two others waiting to be sentenced for crime

Suspects in an attack on an Arab man at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, at a May 30, 2021 hearing at Jerusalem District Court (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Suspects in an attack on an Arab man at the Mahane Yehuda market in Jerusalem, at a May 30, 2021 hearing at Jerusalem District Court (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court handed out prison sentences Wednesday to a pair of Jewish residents of the capital who brutally attacked and critically injured a Palestinian during a riot that took place during the May 2021 Gaza war.

Noam Elimelech received 11 years behind bars for repeatedly stabbing the 22-year-old victim in many parts of his body, in addition to punching and kicking him, according to the court’s ruling.

The second convict, Naftali Elmakayes, continued beating the victim after he had already fallen to the ground.

The court also ordered Elimelech and Elmakayes to pay NIS 100,000 ($26,000) each in compensation. The same fine was issued to Yosef Ben Ami and Yosef Dahan, who were also convicted of the assault but haven’t been sentenced yet.

The four participated in a May 12, 2021, rally by far-right activists in the flashpoint neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. They then made their way toward the Mahane Yehuda Market, deciding en route that they would beat an Arab passerby, the court ruling said. Upon arriving at Mahane Yehuda, they spotted the victim taking out trash from the restaurant where he worked. The assailants approached him, confirmed that he was indeed an Arab and began to assault him.

Elimelech’s steeper sentence was also partially due to his conviction on another charge of assaulting a police officer under aggravated circumstances during a separate rally of ultranationalists that same week. Roughly 150 people participated in that rally, some wearing masks and chanting “Death to Arabs” and “Revenge.”

Jerusalem Magistrate’s Court Judge Eli Abarbanel highlighted the nationalistic nature of the assailants’ actions in his ruling, adding that they had been motivated by a desire to “terrorize another population group and vent their anger over violent events that occurred at the time.”

“In their actions, the defendants violated basic human values,” the judge continued, noting that the assailants not only caused physical injuries to the victim deemed critical by doctors, but also inflicted significant psychological trauma. “This incident left a mark that will not fade.”

Three people were killed and hundreds more were hurt in days of violent unrest in cities with mixed Arab-Jewish populations at the time, as Israel saw some of the worst inter-communal violence since the state’s founding, with long-simmering nationalist tensions between Jews and Arabs exploding in a barrage of firebombs, shootings and brawls. The riots occurred during Operation Guardian of the Walls, the name for Israel’s 11-day war with Gaza.

The riots began on May 10, 2021, with thousands of Arab Israelis participating in violent demonstrations in mixed cities including Lod, Ramle and Acre.

Jewish Israelis participated in violent counter-demonstrations in response to the riots, in some cases incited by Jewish supremacist extremist organizations.

Arab and Jewish mobs attacked passersby, in some cases severely maiming them or worse.

Aside from the deaths and injuries, synagogues, a mosque, apartments and cars were burned, citizens were stoned and homes were looted.

The police failed to gain control of these violent disturbances for days.

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