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Arson suspected as 2nd fire in a week damages Arab-Jewish school near Jerusalem

Residents of Neve Shalom community believe both incidents were hate crimes; no injuries caused but building scorched, library saved

Two students learning computers in the school of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, March 31, 2008. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Illustrative: Two students learning computers in the school of Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam, March 31, 2008. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

A fire broke out overnight Sunday at a school in the Arab-Jewish community of Neve Shalom near Jerusalem, the second such blaze at the institution in a week.

Residents of Neve Shalom said in a statement they now believed both incidents were arson and hate crimes against the community, Channel 12 news reported.

Police opened an investigation into the incident.

“After a difficult night in the village it is now clear to us that the fire a week ago in the Peace School building was apparently a hate crime,” the statement said. “Today there was another fire/arson attack on another building.

The statement noted that the Fred Segal Peace and Friendship Library was saved from the fire, “which could have been much larger and more dangerous.”

Photos posted to social media showed burnt schoolrooms and furniture.

Firefighters who responded to the blaze also suspected arson, Kan news reported. According to Walla news, flammable materials were found at the site.

A resident who was not named in the report told Kan: “We are afraid that the hate will also reach our homes.”

MK Yousef Jabareen, of the Joint List alliance of mostly Arab parties, tweeted his support for community residents.

“A shared life is the answer to the crimes of hate and incitement,” he wrote. “There is nothing that scares the extreme right more than bilingual education and the concept of true equality between Arabs and Jews.”

Jabareen called on the police to bring the culprits to justice.

Joint List MK Yousef Jabareen talks to AFP during an interview in his hometown Umm al-Fahm, on January 30, 2020 (AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP)

Meretz MK Tamar Zanberg tweeted that Neve Shalom must not be allowed “to fall victim to hate and incitement.” Zandberg said she will ask the acting police chief for the results of the investigation.

Last week another fire seriously damaged the school.

Firefighters extinguished that blaze at 2 a.m. on Tuesday, the local paper Bekitzur reported, and detectives from the police and the fire brigade opened an investigation into how the fire started. No one was hurt in the blaze.

Meretz MK Tamar Zandberg attends a party conference in Tel Aviv, January 14, 2020. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

Neve Shalom was founded in 1969 by Bruno Hussar, a Christian monk who was born a Jew in Egypt. The community aimed to foster dialogue between Jews and Arabs.

A few dozen Jewish and Arab families live in the village. Its school uses both Arabic and Hebrew as languages of instruction.

The village has seen hate crimes in the past, including graffiti and the slashing of tires in 2012. It is situated in a valley prone to brush fires and its residents had to be evacuated briefly in November 2016.

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