Shocked and repulsion seem the best words to describe the collective feelings of Haifa's police reconnaissance unit upon entering an apartment in their city on Saturday night only to find pages torn from a prayer book being used as toilet paper.
Six suspects between the ages of 18-20 were brought before the Haifa Magistrate’s Court on Sunday morning as police requested their arrest be extended for questioning.
Over the past few months a number of graffiti-sprayed swastikas and hate slogans had appeared on the walls of buildings around Allenby St. and in the Kiryat Eliezer, Bat Galim and Hadar neighborhoods of the city. Police are presently investigating a possible connection to the suspects currently in their custody.
The case began Friday night when residents of Allenby St. complained about loud noise coming from one of the buildings on the street. Police officers who arrived at the scene found a group of youngsters celebrating with alcohol and loud music.
“This wasn’t something out of the ordinary,” said Haifa Police Chief Dudu Ben-Atiya. “We have dozens of these cases every night, especially on the weekends. The officers asked the teens to lower the volume and wrote them up for disturbing the peace.”
Several hours later, however, the police received a report of a violent altercation near the same building. Officers who arrived at the premises saw six youths, recent immigrants from the former Soviet Union, wielding knives, and decided to search their apartment.
“What they saw wasn't easy to handle,” said Ben-Atiya. “The officers found pages from a prayer book ripped out and smeared with feces. In addition, evidence was found connecting the suspects in one way or another to a demonic cult or some other kind of organization.”
Investigators have yet to rule out the possibility that the suspects are connected to a neo-Nazi organization. A metal swastika, spikes, drugs and computers were all confiscated by the police, though the computer can only be searched after the court issues a search warrant.
In September of 2007, the building’s tenants were horrified to discover hate messages and swastikas drawn in the stairwell. On Saturday Jewish and Arab neighbors spoke of the tense atmosphere that has pervaded the usually calm neighborhood.
One of the neighbors who asked the suspects to keep the noise down had glass bottles shattered on his front door. He was so rattled that even now, he refused to open the door for reporters until a friend from the adjacent building attested to their identity.
“The group's members have shaved heads with one lock of long hair, tattoos all over their bodies and they only wear black. They walk around drunk and stoned all day long,” said Samer a neighbor who lives across the hall. “Every night they listened to noisy music literally until 8:00 am. They used to scream and swear all night, I couldn’t sleep,” he added.
The suspects also have “s*** the police” slogan sprayed in red on their door. Michael, the neighbor from across the hall said, “I understand Russian, but it is impossible to identify their music, it is something you hear at a disco.
“Just by their exterior, I understood that it was not worth it to deal with them. They were scary. I think that the owner of the apartment himself cannot believe that six people live there,” he added.
The suspects threatened their elderly neighbor, Larissa. “’We’ll kill you’ they said, they looked very scary,” she recalled. Another neighbor said that the “young girl in their group would stand in the window facing the street, pull down her pants and expose her behind in order to degrade the neighbors.”
According to him, one of the suspects hit a girl on the street and let her go only when he saw his neighbors approaching.
As said, after discovering the swastika and the desecrated prayer books, the police arrested the six suspects for offending public sensibilities, and vandalizing religious items. “These are extremely severe suspicions,” said Ben-Atiya.
All six suspects are denying the suspicions. On Sunday, the police will request a prolongation of their arrest.