'A little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness'

Israelis donate over NIS 1 million for Palestinian victims of settler rampage

Labor party member who organized campaign says it offers ‘a bit of optimism’ after deadly riot in Huwara, but laments that perpetrators now have senior partners in the government

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Settlers look on as cars and homes burn in the West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, 2023. (Courtesy)
Settlers look on as cars and homes burn in the West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, 2023. (Courtesy)

Israelis donated over NIS 1 million ($272,750) within less than 24 hours for Palestinians whose homes and businesses were destroyed by hundreds of settlers who carried out a deadly rampage through the northern West Bank town of Huwara on Sunday night.

Labor party member Yaya Fink launched an online crowd-funding campaign the morning after the attack in which a 37-year-old Palestinian man was killed, some three hundred were wounded — four of whom seriously — and dozens of buildings and vehicles were torched in the mass-riot that came hours after two Israeli brothers were killed in a terror shooting in the same town.

By Tuesday morning at 6 a.m., 7,283 people had donated $291,015. Fink launched the initiative with an original goal of $27,275.

“It’s only a small deed, but as the Jewish proverb goes, ‘A little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness,'” Fink told The Times of Israel in a Monday interview.

Fink said he was driven to act after seeing the “horrifying” footage from the rampage, which showed yarmulke-wearing Jewish perpetrators gathering for an evening prayer quorum in front of Huwara buildings engulfed in flames.

“As a religious Jew myself… I felt that I could not be silent under such circumstances,” Fink said. “They’re creating a warped new Judaism and bearing the name of the true one in vain.”

Yair Fink thanks supporters after the release of the results in the Labor party primaries in Tel Aviv on February 11, 2019. (Gili Yaari/Flash90)

“I came to the conclusion that I needed to raise a different Jewish, Zionist, Israeli voice,” explained Fink, who recently founded the Our Israel pro-democracy grassroots movement.

While he insisted that the majority of Israelis “don’t accept such anarchists,” Fink acknowledged that the perpetrators now have “very senior partners in the government.”

He pointed to comments made by coalition lawmaker Tzika Fogel, who unequivocally backed the rioters, as well as the chairman of his far-right Otzma Yehudit party, Itamar Ben Gvir who has refused to condemn the rampage.

Ben Gvir is one of the most senior ministers in the government whose National Security Ministry oversees the police and Fogel is chair of the Knesset’s Public Security Committee.

“We cannot treat them as if they’re outrageous fringes. They’re among the leaders of Israel today,” Fink said. “That is why in the face of those forces, we need a civil movement that spreads light and fights these people.”

Asked how he planned to transfer the money to Huwara residents, Fink said he was getting in touch with community leaders in Huwara using former Israeli security officials as conduits and speculated that it would take roughly three weeks to identify the exact families whose homes and businesses were vandalized. Background checks will also be conducted to ensure that none of the money reaches Palestinians with a history of security offenses.

Hundreds of Israelis sent him threatening messages for launching the initiative, but Fink said the thousands who decided to donate offered “a bit of optimism amid a difficult period when the news is filled with extremists, the terrorists and the arsonists.”

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