Roughly 200 Jews paid a solidarity visit to a mosque in the Sharafat neighborhood of East Jerusalem on Saturday evening, a day after the Muslim house of worship was torched in an apparent hate crime.
Fire services were dispatched to the East Jerusalem mosque on Friday morning and managed to put out the blaze before serious damage could be caused.
Police announced that they had opened an investigation into the attack and distributed photos from the scene, showing that the vandals had spray-painted in Hebrew “Destroy [the property of] Jews? Kumi Ori destroys [the property of] enemies!” before fleeing.
Kumi Ori is a flashpoint outpost neighborhood of the Yitzhar settlement in the northern West Bank where security forces razed a pair of illegally built homes earlier this month.
The Saturday visit was organized by the Tag Meir organization, which works to counter hate and racism in Israel and the West Bank. Recalling the inter-faith meeting, the group’s chairman Gadi Gvaryahu said: “We expressed our shame and anger at the appalling crime, jointly wished for days of peace and brotherhood and promised to keep in touch with the residents of the neighborhood.”
“They shared with us that despite their anger, they declared during their Friday prayers that it is imperative to respect everyone — Jews and Arabs alike,” Gvaryahu said.
Ismail Awad, a Mukhtar or community leader in Sharafat, who was present during the Saturday solidarity visit said he was overwhelmed by the gesture.
“It’s good that this horrible event happened because it led us to meeting all of these generous people,” Awad told The Times of Israel, adding that the Jewish visitors also donated more than enough money to repair the damage caused by the arson attack.
In a Friday statement, Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion said he “strongly condemns the hate crime committed in the [Sharafat] neighborhood. Such things are unacceptable and not tolerated.”
Anti-Arab vandalism by Jewish extremists has become a common occurrence in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
Incidents of vandalism against Palestinians and Israeli security forces in the West Bank are commonly referred to as “price tag” attacks, with perpetrators claiming they are retaliation for Palestinian violence or government policies seen as hostile to the settler movement.
Arrests of perpetrators have been exceedingly rare and rights groups lament that convictions are even more unusual, with the majority of charges in such cases being dropped. Last week, however, state prosecutors did indict one perpetrator of such a crime and requested that the suspect remain behind bars until the end of proceedings against him.