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Colleague of assaulted rabbi says Jaffa yeshiva promotes ‘good neighborliness’

Moshe Shandovitz says his and Rabbi Eliyahu Mali’s ‘religious’ appearance may have been part of attack motive; police extend suspects’ remand by 2 days

View of the Shirat Moshe Hesder Yeshiva in Jaffa on April 19, 2021. (Video screenshot: Ynet)
View of the Shirat Moshe Hesder Yeshiva in Jaffa on April 19, 2021. (Video screenshot: Ynet)

The colleague of a yeshiva rabbi who was assaulted Sunday in Jaffa as the two were visiting a property said on Monday that the purpose of their presence in the city is “to do good.”

“Rabbi [Eliyahu] Mali established the yeshiva and a number of other institutions 13 years ago in Jaffa,” Moshe Shandovitz of the Shirat Moshe Hesder Yeshiva told the Ynet news site, adding that the institutions “educate for good neighborliness, altruism, and kindness.”

Mali was violently attacked Sunday morning while seeking to purchase an apartment for his yeshiva. Two suspects, Arab residents of the city, were arrested.

Police said the suspects, both in their 30s, were brought before the Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Monday to extend their remand by two days.

Moshe Shandovitz of the Shirat Moshe Hesder Yeshiva in Jaffa on April 19, 2021. (Video screenshot: Ynet)

While the police charged the two with a racially motivated assault offense, the suspects denied the attack was driven by racism in their initial investigation, Ynet reported.

Jaffa, which has now been incorporated into Tel Aviv, is traditionally Arab, but recent years have seen many Jewish residents move in, drawn by new luxury housing developments. The gentrification — along with the presence of the yeshiva and the expansion of its community into Arab areas — has fueled tensions in the city.

Mali is a former senior rabbi at the Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva, which seeks to populate the Old City and other East Jerusalem neighborhoods with Jewish residents by purchasing properties from Arabs.

In the incident early Sunday, Mali and his colleague were assaulted as they went to a building in Jaffa to view the property. The two were surrounded by Arab residents of the area, who yelled at them and ordered them to leave. When they refused and began filming the incident, the suspects began beating Mali and his colleague.

Two residents of Jaffa filmed beating Rabbi Eliyahu Mali on April 18, 2021. (Courtesy)

“I have no doubt that the background is an element,” Shandovitz said, acknowledging the controversy surrounding Jews — and specifically his yeshiva — purchasing premises in the Arab-majority city. “But also our appearance — we are bearded and wear kippot, and that also probably has an effect.”

Photos posted online showed the rabbi, in his sixties, being kicked to the ground.

In response to the incident, a protest of predominantly religious Jews took place near the site of the attack Sunday evening, denouncing violence against Jews in the city. At the same time, a counter-protest of local Arab Israelis formed across the street from the Jewish protest, chanting, “Settlers, go home.”

Police formed a human barrier between the two protests, and came under attack from rocks and fireworks hurled in their direction, police said in a statement, adding that two officers suffered light injuries.

Separately Sunday, hundreds of Palestinians clashed with Israel Police by the Damascus Gate of the Old City of Jerusalem during protests against restrictions in the area.

Nightly clashes between Palestinians and police have broken out close to Damascus Gate since the beginning of the Ramadan holiday last Tuesday. East Jerusalem Palestinians have thrown stones at buses and shot fireworks at officers, according to police.

Meanwhile, a handful of East Jerusalem Palestinians have been sharing videos in which they can be seen striking ultra-Orthodox Jewish passersby. The clips, uploaded to the social network TikTok, have evoked widespread condemnation by both Jewish and Arab MKs.

On Monday, police said they arrested three suspects, residents of Jerusalem, shortly after they allegedly filmed themselves pouring a hot cup of coffee on a passerby near Damascus Gate, then uploading the video online.

The incident came days after a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem was arrested on suspicion he slapped two ultra-Orthodox boys on a train in the capital and then posted the footage of the unprovoked assault on TikTok.

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