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Photo: Ido Erez
The three suspects in school arson had violent past.
Photo: Ido Erez
Suspects in hate crime at bilingual school have troubling history of violence
Three young Jewish men who admitted arson at Jerusalem school were part of extreme right-wing organization, had been previously charged with assaulting police officers and spitting on nuns and priests.

An arrest following rioting in Jerusalem after a vehicular terror attack in the capital; an arrest after an assault on a police officer at a protest after the Har Nof synagogue massacre; spitting on a nun – just some of the violent crimes attributed to the three young suspects in the hate crime at a Jewish-Arab bilingual school in Jerusalem last month.

 

 

As it seems, the writing was already on the wall.

 

The three suspects behind Jerusalem school arson. (Photo: Ido Erez) (Photo: Ido Erez)
The three suspects behind Jerusalem school arson. (Photo: Ido Erez)

 

The three young men – Yitzhak Gabai, 22, and brothers 20-year-old Shlomo and 18-year-old Nahman Twito - were arrested by Jerusalem district police last week and on Thursday arrived in court with smiles plastered across their faces. Their remand was extended for another five days.

 

After last month's string of terror attacks in the capital, the three young men took part in violent protests in Jerusalem and ultimately engaged a hate crime last Saturday evening - setting  fire to the school and vandalizing the property with anti-Arab slogans.

 

A classroom inside the school after the attack. (Photo: Gil Yohanan) (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
A classroom inside the school after the attack. (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

 

The young men are members of the Lehava organization - a far right-wing group whose prime objective is to oppose assimilation of Jews, especially marriages between Jews and non-Jews.

 

The three suspects, who have admitted burning the school, also took part in protests against interfaith marriages in Israel between Jews and Arabs and protests against the Rami Levy supermarket chain, which employs Arabs.

 

The school that the young men set fire to is located mere meters from the home of Gabai. The young men arrived at the school at the end of the Sabbath, set fire to the building and ran away.

 

Graffiti on the walls of the school: 'No coexistence with cancer'. (Photo: Gil Yohanan) (Photo: Gil Yohanan)
Graffiti on the walls of the school: 'No coexistence with cancer'. (Photo: Gil Yohanan)

 

Gabai had also been arrested in May on suspicion of incitement to racism and corruption of land after he put up signs denouncing Christianity during the Pope Francis' visit to Israel.

 

The signs read, "The cursed Christian religion is a partner in the murder of millions of Jews and various deaths… they dream of annihilating the Jewish nation. Impure pope, leave our holy nation."

 

Last February, Gabai was arrested and was indicted for possession of a brass knuckle.

 

"He is a good boy, his upbringing is perfectly fine," said Gabai's father, who confirmed that his son is a member of the Lehava organization.

 

"I'm sure he did not do it," said his father, who simultaneously showed support for the extreme right-wing organization.

 

His father expressed contempt for the interfaith marriage of Mahmoud Mansour, an Arab Muslim from Jaffa, and Morel Malcha, a Jewish Israeli woman who converted to Islam. "There is confusion in Israel. Would you let your daughter marry an Arab?" Gabai's father posited.

 

The two other suspects in the arson attack – brothers from a 16-member family in the Beitar Illit settlement near Jeruslaem – also have a dubious past marked with nationalist acts.

 

The older of the two, Shlomo Twito, was arrested a few weeks ago at a rally that was held at the Bridge of Strings in Jerusalem following the massacre of five Israelis at the synagogue in the Har Nof neighborhood in Jerusalem. He was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a police officer and for disturbing the peace.

 

At the time, the police requested that the court extend his remand by five days in order to wait for the release of the indictment, but the court decided to free Shlomo on condition he be prohibited from entering Jerusalem for five days.

  

The mother of the Twito brothers said Monday that she would have set the school ablaze as well were it not for the law, and that Jews and Arabs should not be studying in mixed classes.

 

While she shook off accusations of harassment of Arabs, the suspect's mother expressed revulsion at the fact that Jews and Arabs were studying together in the same school.

 

“It’s disgusting that Jews and Arabs learn side by side,” she told Ynet. “If we didn’t have a country governed by law, I would have done the same,” she said.

 

The young Twito brothers were involved in another troubling event only a month ago.

 

An indictment was filed against the two after a police officer caught Nahman Twito spitting at a nun. The police officer stopped Nahman and the two brothers started yelling at the police officer to identify himself. In the meantime, Nahman saw a priest passing by and spit on him as well.

 

In May 2012, Nahman was charged for unlawful possession of a knife after he took part in a fight.

 

At a hearing that took place last August, Nahman said: "A long time has passed. I haven't gotten in trouble. I'm trying to run away from this as much as possible."

 

The judge noted that he was very familiar with the past behavior of Nahman and the Twito family, but decided to take into consideration the fact that Nahman had not been involved in another altercation. He decided to avoid a custodial sentence and instead settled with giving him a fine.

 

 

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