Beitar Illit man gets 3 years in jail for arson of Hebrew-Arabic school in Jerusalem

According to the Shin Bet, Yitzhak Gabai was a member of the Jewish extremist group Lehava.

December 1, 2015 11:20
2 minute read.
Arson of bilingual Hebrew-Arabic school

State indicts 3 in arson of bilingual Hebrew-Arabic school in Jerusalem. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The Jerusalem District Court on Tuesday handed down a three-year prison sentence to a Jewish extremist who torched the bilingual Max Rayne Hand in Hand School last year.

Yitzhak Gabbai, 22, was sentenced to 24 months for the arson, as well as two months for illegal possession of a knife and 10 months for incitement to violence.

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Gabbai, who confessed to his crimes, according to police and prosecutors, is the third and final defendant to be convicted in the case.

He was indicted in December 2014 by the Jerusalem District Attorney’s Office, along with co-conspirators Shlomo Twitto, 20, and Nachman Twitto, 18, two brothers from Betar Illit.

The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) said at the time of the three suspects’ arrests that they targeted the center for Jewish-Arab education “because Jews and Arabs learn together at the school, and the goal was to put opposition to coexistence and assimilation in the public eye.”

All three men are members of the far-right extremist group Lehava, which advocates the anti-Arab ideology of Jewish Defense League founder Meir Kahane, whose Kach Party was outlawed in Israel for inciting racism.

Nachman and Shlomo were sentenced in July to two and two-and-a-half years in prison by the Jerusalem District Court.

The brothers confessed to spray painting graffiti on an interior wall, saying “Kahane was right,” “You can’t coexist with a cancer,” “Enough with assimilation” and “Death to Arabs.”

The Hand in Hand school serves more than 600 Jewish and Arab pupils from kindergarten to 12th grade, and is run by Jewish and Arab co-principals.

According to the indictment against the defendants, they conspired to torch the school due to their opposition to its co-existence efforts.

On the night of November 28th, the three men arrived at the school carrying gasoline, spray paint, plastic bags to cover their hands and a lighter.

The indictment said that Gabbai and Shlomo climbed through a window into one of the classrooms and doused it with gasoline, while Nachman spray painted the walls with racist slogans. They then set the structure ablaze and fled.

In July, two Jewish Israelis, named as 20-year-old Yinon Reuveni of Ofakim and 19-yearold Yehuda Asraf of Elad, were indicted for allegedly setting fire to a world famous Christian church and pilgrimage site on the Sea of Galilee.

The suspects torched the church on the night of June 17th, intending to cause harm to a Christian holy place “based on their hostility towards the Christian religion,” according to the indictment.

The Shin Bet said the suspects were driven by ideology of the so-called “Hilltop Youth,” a loosely organized group of ultra-nationalists known for establishing illegal outposts in the West Bank.

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