Jerusalem sues bilingual school arsonists for damages
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Jerusalem sues bilingual school arsonists for damages

Municipality seeks NIS 518,000 to cover harm to building, psychological treatments for children in aftermath of attack

Suspected arsonists set fire to a bilingual Hebrew-Arabic school in Jerusalem, November 29, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Suspected arsonists set fire to a bilingual Hebrew-Arabic school in Jerusalem, November 29, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Jerusalem municipality has sued three men who set fire to the Max Rayne Hand in Hand School last November in a racially motivated attack. The school fosters Jewish-Arab coexistence and teaches in Arabic and Hebrew.

In a statement released Tuesday, the municipality said it was seeking a total of NIS 518,000 (some $130,000) in damages. The sum includes reparations for physical harm to the institution, as well as payments for psychological treatment offered to the children of the school in the aftermath of the attack.

“From now on, [those who harm city property] will know that in addition to the criminal proceedings, we will act in all possible ways to make them pay the full price for the damage they caused,” Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat said.

Yitzhak Gabai and brothers Nahman and Shlomo Twitto were indicted in December for starting a November 29 fire in the school and spray-painting racist messages — such as “There is no coexistence with cancer” and “Death to the Arabs” — on the walls of the institution.

The act drew condemnation from politicians across the board, and hundreds rallied in support of the school in the days following the attack.

Three members of the anti-assimilation Lehava organization, suspects in an arson attack on a Jewish-Arab school, are brought to a hearing at the District Court in Jerusalem on December 15, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Three members of the anti-assimilation Lehava organization, suspects in an arson attack on a Jewish-Arab school, are brought to a hearing at the District Court in Jerusalem on December 15, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

The Twitto brothers were convicted as part of a plea bargain in April and sentenced to two and two-and-a-half years in prison, respectively. The Jerusalem District Court also required of them to pay the school a total of NIS 25,000 in compensation. Gabai, who rejected the plea bargain, was convicted in September and has not yet been sentenced.

The trio, who ranged in age from 18 to 22, were activists in the extremist Lehava organization, which aims to prevent intermarriage and coexistence between Jews and Arabs in Israel.

Lehava, headed by extremist right-wing activist Bentzi Gopstein, has been denounced by President Reuven Rivlin, who has described the group’s actions as akin to “rodents gnawing under the shared democratic and Jewish foundation of Israel.”

Gopstein said in December that his organization does not act illegally and accused the Shin Bet of trying to frame Lehava to thwart its “holy work of saving the daughters of Israel.”

There are currently five Hand in Hand schools operating across the country, educating over 1,000 students in total.

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