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Wednesday, May 4th

Hate in Arad


Anti-semitic hate crime, once found only in the Diaspora, has come to Arad.

Staff members at the Or Menachem Chabad Elementary School were horrified to discover this past Sunday night that the small school had been severely damaged by anti-semitic vandals over the Pesach holiday.

According to eye witnesses, huge swathes of "gosh" paint covered walls, desks, and equipment, drenching "everything in sight". Files and other papers were ripped to pieces and thrown all over the classrooms and offices. Tables and chairs were broken, windows smashed and siddurim ripped up and strewn on the ground.

The scene was discovered when teachers arrived to prepare their classrooms for the resumption of lessons on Monday.

The graffiti was the most disturbing, said teachers, hatred spewing with every word spray-painted all over the walls. Epithets attacking the teachers and Jews in general were coupled with crosses and swastikas on the walls of the school and in the classrooms.

Huge swathes of different colored paints were flung at the walls and floors of the offices and classrooms. Tables and chairs were broken and scattered around the school which houses classrooms for girls in grades 1 through 8. Equipment was completely painted over so as to destroy it. The school's new computer was stolen, as was all the money from the tzedaka pushkas. Files, papers and siddurim were ripped to pieces and strewn on the floors of the classrooms and on the ground outside, according to eye witnesses.

Arad Mayor Moti Brill was called to the scene by police investigating the case, "because the scene was just that horrific. Almost every police officer was called out for this one," noted one source. However, neither police officials nor the Mayor could be reached for comment on the investigation.

Teachers and other staff spent most of the night and all day Monday trying to clean up the mess; the graffiti was so vicious and the damage so bad that school officials did not allow the children to approach the school for fear of further traumatizing them. Instead they were redirected to the nearby Community Center for the day. Several older boys from the yeshiva were also asked to paint over the obscenities, insults and filth "to prevent the children from being exposed to such language" as one teacher said.

The school, Or Menachem Chabad, is a small girls' elementary school located in the Halamish neighborhood, close to the center of town where many of the Russian immigrants have begun new lives in recent years. Some 45% of the total population in Arad is comprised of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Of those, say Jewish community members, at least half are not halachically Jewish. One long-term resident complained that "many came here using loopholes created by the Law of Return, claiming one Jewish grandparent, simply to escape the economic hardships in the former Soviet Union."

"Anti-semitism is alive and well in Arad," he noted. "Many of my Russian Jewish friends have warned me and others -- about the hate-filled time bomb ticking away in our midst".

A new immigrant from North America commented, "My children have never been exposed to anti-semitism before. We had to come to Israel for them to learn what we believed we left in the Diaspora."

The school has been the scene of several such attacks in the past year, most recently a few weeks before Pesach, in addition to a number of break-ins and robberies. The language of the graffiti has changed, noted one staff member. "First it was in Russian. This time, everything was scrawled in Hebrew." Each time, the police were called and an investigation was promised.

No progress has been made to date and all sources for this story asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals.
negev_magazine on 05.04.05 @ 05:42 PM GMT+3 [link] [3 Comments]