As 2.1 million Israeli children returned to school on Monday, students in Tayibe stayed at home. Schools in the Arab city went on strike on the first day of school a week after an unknown perpetrator shot and killed the principal of Amal high school, Haj Yachieh.
Following the murder, and since the perpetrator has yet to be caught, the municipality decided to declare a general strike at schools, businesses and public places in the city.
On Monday evening, the students from Tayibe will join their parents, who support the decision to strike, in a protest rally.
Students at Amal high school (Photo: George Ginsburg)
"Even if there wasn't a strike, I wouldn't have gone back to school," a student at Amal high school said. "It really pains us to come back without seeing the headmaster, who put all of his efforts into the success of the students. We won't settle for just protests and strikes, and we won't stop until we know who is behind the murder."
Haj Yachieh was holding a staff meeting at the school last Monday when a unknown perpetrator entered the educational facility and opened fire at the headmaster. The shooter fled the scene on foot, and a local ambulance evacuated the headmaster to the Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba, where he was declared dead.
"A father and a responsible leader was murdered," student Saed Jabar said. "The entire school has lost its spirit. These walls, that were supposed to protect the headmaster, betrayed him."
Saed Jabar (Photo: George Ginsburg)
Since the murder, there have been claims in Tayibe that the authorities, including the police, can't put a stop to the extensive crime in the city.
"We demand government involvement to clean up the streets of Tayibe from this criminal violence. Unfortunately what the government is doing is not enough," Jabar added.
Mahmad Jabali, another student, joined the chorus of criticism: "I'm very frustrated of what's happening. The school's headmaster was like a father and a friend to me. Before he was murdered I was in his office and we spoke about the future of the students. At the end of the conversation we were photographed together. I learned a lot of things from him. I believe he was the right person that could've led Tayibe."
Mahmad Jabali with the murdered headmaster, Haj Yachieh.
Jabali went on to say that the city residents "demand to catch the murderous criminal, because he is a danger to society. I hope peace is restored to the city. It's important to me that the school year won't go on as if nothing had happened. The anger and pain will remain in our hearts."
Mahmad Jabali (Photo: George Ginsburg)
The parents in Tayibe also shared the concern their children felt. Abed Haj Yehiya, one of the parents, said that "I would rather declare a strike in all of the schools until they find the killer. We must not let this incident go quietly. I'm actually afraid to send my children to school. A man who walks into the headmaster's office and murders him is capable of walking into a classroom and murdering a teacher or a student."
Amir Masarwa, another parent, said: "The atmosphere here is very tense; the students are having a hard time starting the school year. Everyone in the city are talking about the case, we didn't expect something like this to happen. It'll take us a long time to go back to normal. We want to get answers on who murdered the school headmaster, or we'll continue the protest."
The head of the city's local committee, Dr. Zuhir Tibi, criticized law enforcement authorities.
"The police's job is to ensure the safety of the residents, and it failed in this role big time," he said. "The residents are pointing an accusatory finger at the government for its powerlessness and failure in solving dozens of homicides in Tayibe, and (in combating) the large amounts of weapons that serve as a tool for crime and violence. We're united in our plea to find the murderer, collect all of the weapons and bring the peace back to Tayibe."
Dr. Zuhir Tibi (Photo: George Ginsburg)
MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL-Ta'al), who lives in the city, also joined the voices of criticism against the police.
"The general strike is a cry for help, an expression of protest, rage, pain, grief - over an unprecedented crime that has crossed the line," Tibi said. "It's hard to believe that a headmaster was murdered here, inside his own office, while preparing for the beginning of the school year. Police is not preventing crime, not collecting the weapons that kill us, and the results are lethal. How did the police not stop this murder? This is a failure, this is a huge failure that cries to high heaven. The police is lazy, and not doing its job in Arab municipalities."
Tibi went on to say that residents of Tayibe "are saying that if the murder victim was Jewish, the crime would've been solved immediately. No one should be surprised, when a Jew was murdered here a few years ago - police caught the perpetrator within 48 hours. Most of the crimes and homicides in Tayibe haven't been solved. I turned to the internal security minister over a year ago and asked him 'what about the fight against crime?' and he told me at the time there's a budgetary problem and sent me to talk to the Treasury. I turned to them and they told me there are priorities."
The head of the appointed committee in Tayibe, Arik Barmi, said the strike would only last one day.
"We decided on a day of mourning, and tomorrow we'll open the school year as normal," he said. "The first two hours will be dedicated to discussions about the headmaster and his way. This is a very grave incident that crossed all the red lines. We must not allow this to pass quietly. The residents were very affected by the murder, and now we have to lift our heads high and look to the future."
Police said in response to the residents' accusations: "Following the crimes committed in Triangle area cities in recent days, the district deputy commander, Brig.-Gen. Shimon Ben-Harush ordered an increase of police presence in the Kedma station sector, including special patrol units from the YASAM and Border Police, as well as to give investigative and intelligence priority to the case files of the recent murders in Tayibe and Tira. In tandem with that the Central District Command, the Sharon District and the Kedma police station are in constant contact with the local leadership and the heads of the regional councils, while addressing the concerns of the communities."