‘A small step toward righting the wrong'

Reporter's Notebook: Rather than denounce the crime with strong language and media fanfare, some Jerusalemites lend a hand.

By MELANIE LIDMAN
December 15, 2011 01:56
1 minute read.
vandalism at Jerusalem mosque

vandalism at Jerusalem mosque_311. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

 
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When the news of an arson and vandalism attack on an abandoned downtown Jerusalem mosque spread throughout the country, dozens of politicians from across the spectrum released statements.

One resident picked up a paintbrush. “What happened here is unconscionable, and I don’t think it is representative of Israeli society, this neighborhood or Jerusalem,” said Avi Mayer, a Jerusalemite who works for the Jewish Agency.

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But rather than denounce the crime with strong language and media fanfare, Mayer quietly chose to use his hands to clean up what the municipality’s sanitation crew had missed.

Along with his friend Arie Hasit, he redid shutters, painted over graffiti that read “Price Tag” and tried scrubbing smoke off the exterior walls.

Their actions drew curious onlookers, some of them less than enthusiastic about the duo’s work.

A group of young haredi boys scolded Mayer. “Are you even Jewish?” they demanded. “We wish the mosque had burned down!” “The Arabs hate us in their hearts, so we hate them as well!” others chimed in.

“It’s been disturbing to hear some of the reactions,” Mayer said. “Not all, but some have found ways to justify this attack.”

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Throughout the afternoon, they witnessed the media frenzy surrounding United Arab List-Ta’al MK Ahmed Tibi’s appearance and a visit from Shari’a Council members.

But there were also sweeter moments: Several Arab boys from the nearby Lycée Français de Jérusalem school were cajoled into helping. By the end of the day, a bucketful of sooty water stood as a testament to a different way of responding to violence.

“This is quite simply wrong in the message it sends to the world,” said Mayer. “Hopefully we have taken a small step toward righting this.”

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