The Beersheba District Court on Thursday sentenced Muhammad Abu Alkiyan, an elementary school teacher from the Bedouin town of Hura in southern Israel, to four years in prison for forming a group that planned to travel to Syria and join the Islamic State. He was also convicted of teaching children and mosque-goers content inspired by IS.
Alkiyan, a 28-year-old father of five, admitted to having established a secret group that would hold clandestine meetings related to the Islamic State, and of planning to leave Israel on the pretext of a pilgrimage to Mecca, but with the true goal of joining IS fighters in Syria.
The teacher would also give sermons to members of the community, including minors, promoting IS and asserting that the extremist group did not steer from Islam.
In the sentencing, the court wrote that Alkiyan would meet with other IS supporters near the mosque and preach to them about the organization. These community members allegedly included a man named Othman, who subsequently traveled to Syria to join IS and was reportedly killed there. (This may have been a reference to Israeli doctor Othman Abdelkayan, who was reportedly killed fighting for IS in October 2014.)
Alkiyan was indicted over the affair in July, along with four other Arab Israelis, three of whom were teachers in the Israeli education system.
The teachers were accused of promoting the jihadist ideology in their classes, “taking advantage of their status to win over people for the sake of Daesh [IS], among students and teachers, within the school walls,” the Shin Bet security service said at the time.
A number of Israeli citizens have attempted — some successfully — to join IS. In December 2015, it was reported that a Muslim IDF veteran had joined the group’s fighters in Syria.
In November, six residents of the Arab Israeli town of Jaljulia were arrested for a plan to join up with IS in Syria. A month earlier, a seventh member had managed to fly across the Israeli-Syrian border on the Golan Heights, using a hang glider.
Marissa Newman contributed to this report.