Rabbi’s gravesite defaced with swastikas

Tomb near city of Karmiel is vandalized in apparent reprisal for ‘price tag’ attacks in northern Israel

The tomb of Abba Halafta in the lower galilee (Photo credit: Dr. Avishai Teicher/
The tomb of Abba Halafta in the lower galilee (Photo credit: Dr. Avishai Teicher/

The gravesite of a 2nd-century rabbi was vandalized in northern Israel Tuesday with swastikas spray-painted onto its dome, police said, in an apparent reprisal for recent hate crimes against Muslim places of worship.

The words “Tag will pay a Price” were found on the defaced grace of Rabbi Abba Halafta, seemingly in reference to the perpetrators of recent “price tag” attacks against Muslims in the north.

On Saturday a memorial garden for 16 soldiers at a high school in Beersheba was vandalized ahead of Israel’s Memorial Day. Police were investigating the incident.

The term “price tag” is used by certain Jewish extremists to describe attacks — mainly vandalistic in nature — on their perceived enemies. Muslim villages and mosques have been targeted but so have churches, left-wing Israeli groups and even the IDF. Israeli leaders have strongly condemned the acts.

“Price tag” attacks began sporadically several years ago with West Bank settlers seeking to exact a “price” for state moves against settlements.

But since then, they have spread, with acts of nationalistically inspired vandalism now an almost daily occurrence, heaping pressure on the authorities to act.

On Monday seven Jewish minors were arrested on suspicion of involvement in racist acts and vandalism. Four of the minors, aged 13 to 15, were suspected of spraying racist graffiti at a construction site near an Arab village west of Jerusalem on Sunday.

Another three were arrested near Jerusalem’s Old City on Sunday for spitting at a priest. In their bags, police found Israeli flags with Hebrew slogans on them, including the words “revenge” and “price tag,” Samri said.

On Sunday, a Jerusalem court extended by three days the detention of a man from the settlement of Yitzhar who was arrested last week along with his wife over an arson attack on an Israeli mosque last month.

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said earlier this week that Israel must fight anti-Arab hate crimes “with an iron fist.”

“There is a lot of work ahead of us: we must strive to be a state… that fights to the end against racism, against violence and against xenophobia,” the minister said. “A state that must fight with an iron first against the terror which is wrongly called ‘price tag’ — an ugly phenomenon which has no connection to Jewish values and morals, and whose aim is to harm Arabs only because they are Arabs.”

Also in response to the recent spate of attacks, a group of youths from the northern Arab town of Shfaram on Monday teamed up with Jewish counterparts to renovate the ancient synagogue in the Galilee town.

One of the girls who came to renovate the synagogue said Sunday that Shfaram residents’ history of caring for the synagogue “is an example and a model for coexistence between our two peoples.”

Spencer Ho, Aron Dónzis and AFP contributed to this report.

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