A group of Jewish residents of Netanya staged an angry protest outside a college dorm in the city hosting Arab Israeli students on Saturday night, accusing them of disrupting a Shabbat prayer service earlier in the day.
The protesters alleged that the Arab students had disrupted prayers at a Chabad synagogue by hurling eggs at worshipers and playing loud Arabic music.
In the evening, several hundred Jewish protesters from the neighborhood gathered outside the Netanya Academic College’s dorms, many of them chanting “Death to Arabs.” Some tried to break into the building, according to video footage of the event.
In a statement, the college said that claims made on social media that Arab students had hung Palestinian flags and played loud music were investigated and ruled out by police.
It added that earlier in the morning, “two eggs were thrown at worshipers who left the synagogue next to the student dorms,” and that police were notified and were handling the matter.
Police said in a statement late Saturday that officers who arrived at the college dispersed the demonstration and restored order.
עימותים פרצו בין סטודנטים ערבים המתגוררים במעונות סטודנטים בנתניה לבין יהודים שהתפללו סמוך. בצאת השבת העימותים גברו והמשטרה הורתה לסטודנטים להסתגר בחדרים. כל צד טוען שהשני הוא זה שהחל בעימותים. ראש עיריית נתניה מבקשת לפנות את המעונות מהסטודנטים@CBeyar (אורלי אלקלעי) pic.twitter.com/PnA4P3pxk2
— כאן חדשות (@kann_news) October 28, 2023
The students trapped inside the building left without being hurt, the statement read.
The authorities added that students who express support for terror or the country’s enemies “will be immediately suspended from studies pending a disciplinary investigation.”
Netanya Mayor Miriam Feirberg issued a statement saying she asked the school’s administrators to clear out the dorms and find those responsible for allegedly harassing Jewish worshipers earlier in the day.
The Arab Emergency Committee, a civil society group giving relief services to the Arab community, decried the “reckless incitement against our students in the recent period, which reached its peak today with targeting our students and attempting to attack them inside the student dormitories.”
“We hold the police and college security fully responsible for the security and safety of our students, and we call for an end to the ongoing incitement against all our male and female students in various universities and colleges in the country,” the group said.
פחד אלוהים. כשבפנים מסתתרים עשרות סטודנטים ערבים, מאות פעילי ימין קיצוני יהודי מנסים לפרוץ למעונות של מכללת נתניה, צועקים ״מוות לערבים״, ומקבלים שמירה של המשטרה שלא עושה דבר כדי לפנותם. הם שמעו שיש שם ערבים ופשוט באו לפשוט על המקום. זה קורה כרגע ומחריף כל דקה. pic.twitter.com/lSOoGusPrk
— Alon-Lee Green – ألون-لي جرين – אלון-לי גרין ???? (@AlonLeeGreen) October 28, 2023
Rula Daood, co-director of the Jewish-Arab protest group Standing Together, called the incident an attempted “lynching” on the part of Jewish extremists, accusing them of “taking advantage of the vacuum… in order to set fire to the area and harm civilians with the backing of the police and the municipality.”
“A prime minister who speaks of unity must condemn the violence and focus on calming the field, or else more blood will be on his hands,” he said.
Residents of the Kiryat Sharon neighborhood released a statement denouncing moves to characterize the protesters as extremists, calling it incitement. The residents said they have been complaining for years that college students were harassing children attending an adjacent school.
“The fear is real in light of past experiences and security incidents today,” the statement read. “The Arab students who study at the college repeatedly violate the trust of the residents of the neighborhood, and this Shabbat it escalated when they threw eggs at worshipers. It was indeed ‘just an egg,’ but we have no intention of waiting for them ‘to cross the line,'” they added.
The incident came amid heightened tensions over the ongoing war in the Gaza Strip, which erupted when the Hamas terror group launched a massive assault on Israel, raining rockets on the country to cover an incursion in the south by 2,500 gunmen. The terrorists slaughtered over 1,400 people, the vast majority of them civilians, and abducted at least 230 people to the Strip.
Israel has responded with intensive strikes on Gaza and a gradually expanding ground operation, declaring its intention to eradicate the terror group that rules the Strip.
Israel Police Commissioner Kobi Shabtai has praised the Arab Israeli community for refraining from “incidents” since the start of the war with Hamas amid repeated warnings by far-right politicians of Jewish-Arab violence in Israel’s mixed cities of the kind that took place two years ago.
“We have to say a good word about their exemplary behavior, with zero incidents,” Shabtai said earlier this month at a meeting of the National Security Committee of the Knesset on the subject of “preparedness for a Guardian of the Walls scenario,” a reference to the violent intercommunal riots in mixed Jewish-Arab cities that accompanied a previous conflict with Hamas in 2021.
Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.