Arab students studying in the nothern city of Safed say they are encountering difficulties in renting apartments in the city and are feeling persecuted.
"We didn't come to steal their homes or harm or threaten their children," Youssef, a Bedouin student told Ynet on Wednesday.
A halachic ruling issued by Safed Chief Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu urging residents not to rent out apartments to non-Jews prompted clashes between Arab students and haredi youths several weeks ago. The incident resulted in broken windows and the arrest of three Jewish youths.
Meanwhile, Eliyahu Zvieli, an 89-year-old Safed resident, filed a police complaint after receiving threats following his intention to rent out his apartment to Bedouin students this week.
Zvieli and the poster (Photo: Effi Sharir)
"We chose to come to Safed, not for ideological motives, but simply in order to acquire academic knowledge," Youssef said. "We expected Jews, who have suffered persecution in their city, to be understanding. After we complete our studies we will each return to our homes.
"Female students who study with me tell me they're afraid to go out after dark and rush home directly from the campus for fear of being identified as non-Jews and attacked."
'Bedouins aren't criminals'
Zvieli, who is a neighbor to Rabbi Eliyahu, does not understand what the fuss is all about. "I've received several anonymous calls with threats in the past few days and took no notice. I also got posters yesterday. These are Bedouin students who contribute to the state. They simply came to study and support the city's college, so why should they be treated this way? They're not criminals," he said.
He further noted he has been approached by Rabbi Eliyahu and other religious figures who expressed their concern that renting out apartments to Arabs would result in a gradual Arab takeover of the city. They are hoping that Zvieli would decide against renting out his apartment to Bedouin students who are slated to replace a religious family currently residing in his flat.
Superintendent Gadi Ron of the Safed Police said the police are working to prevent future clashes and trace the individuals behind the phone threats Zvielli has been receiving. "We are working together with the municipality, chief rabbi and other religious figures to calm matters and prevent any future flare-up which we would consider as unforgivable."
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