Beit She'an police on Wednesday arrested two haredi residents on suspicion they torched a car belonging to a local messianic Jew late Tuesday night. The car was parked next to the city's police station when it was burned.
The two suspects' remands were extended until Sunday.
Police are probing whether the incident is linked to rising tensions over what some Jews in the area are calling missionary activities on the part of some Christians.
Beit She'an has a relatively large population of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, some of them Christians or messianic Jews.
The owner of the car, Eliav Levine, identifies with the messianic Jewish community and has lived with his family in Beit She'an for a year and a half. Originally from the former Soviet Union, Levine and his family have been subjected to repeated harassment by local Orthodox Jews, Levine's attorney said Wednesday.
In a letter sent to Israel Police Insp.-Gen. David Cohen on Wednesday, attorney Calev Myer, a senior legal adviser at the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, said that the family had been subjected to repeated verbal abuse and harassment.
Myer said in the wake of Tuesday's arson that "the apparent indifference exhibited by the police toward extremist haredi activists leaves innocent citizens exposed to grave danger, simply because of their religious affiliation."
Myer also called on Cohen to fight violence against messianic Jews "before it is too late, before this harassment takes a toll in human life."
In a press release issued Wednesday, Myer, who provides legal representation for messianic Jews in Israel, said that "haredi extremists" had turned the life of the Levine family "into a living hell just because of their religious beliefs," adding that the family "lives in fear for their lives."
Last April, Myer wrote, assailants tried to torch another automobile belonging to the Levine family when it was parked outside their house. The fire, ignited outside the bedroom of their children, aged three and five, was extinguished, but caused thousands of shekels in damage.
The family subsequently moved, but according to Myer and Levine, the harassment continued, with unknown people spreading rumors about the family to their neighbors.
The harassment included an incident around a month ago, when haredi men drove around the Levine family's neighborhood in a car with speakers on top, announcing that the neighborhood must expel "the Christian missionaries who are paying neighborhood children money in order to baptize them as Christians."
The Levine family has denied all such claims of bribing children or conducting missionary activities.
Levine told The Jerusalem Post that "there is some fear, we have no clue what could happen next."
Levine said the family has installed a security camera outside their home, partly because they feel that police have not done enough to stop the harassment.
Levine recalled several incidents of harassment, including a landlord who demanded they leave their apartment only two months into a one-year lease, after he found out they were messianic Jews.
He also said one of his children reported being taken out of class at school and questioned by Beit She'an religious authorities about the family's religious beliefs, without her parents being notified.
Levine denied that they are missionaries.
"We are not missionaries, we are Jews who believe in Jesus and pray with other Jews from Russia who also believe in Jesus," he said.
Levine said the family drives to Nazareth Illit on Shabbat, where they attend prayer services in the home of other messianic Jews.
Levine said that in spite of the harassment, the family has no intention of leaving Beit She'an.
"We want to stay here. We don't see any reason for us to leave," Levine said.
Rabbi Shalom Lipshitz, chairman of Yad L'Achim, a religious Jewish outreach group that fights missionary activities in Israel, said the group does not in any way condone violent acts.
"We don't justify any sort of violence at all and we are against it, it only makes our work that much harder," Lipshitz said, adding that the arsonist was "just a stupid man who went out and did something stupid. What did he gain from this?"
A spokesman for the Galilee Police told the Post on Wednesday that police are still checking possible motives and are not convinced that the only possibility is the arson was linked to religious tensions.
He said that local police were not aware of other violent incidents of this nature that they could link to tension between Jews and Christians in the Galilee.
The spokesperson also denied that the Levine family were messianic Jews, saying they were Christians.