Eight months after a Petah Tikva synagogue was brutally vandalized and painted with anti-Semitic and Satanic graffiti, police arrested six teenagers in Bat Yam under suspicion of anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli acts.
The six youths range in age from 12 to 15, and live and attend high school in the South Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam. They were arrested Monday night after their school principal alerted police that the students had burned an Israeli flag in the school.
But police suspect that the vandalism extends far beyond the single incident. The students stole at least eight mezuzahs from Bat Yam residences on Rothschild Street, and burned the scrolls which are inscribed with verses from the Torah, police believe.
Officers close to the investigation said that during questioning, the teens also described additional acts of vandalism and said that they were members of a Satanic cult and practiced self-mutilation. The teens admitted to the flag burning, and told police that they had used an abandoned house as their base of operations. Youth crimes investigators also believe that their mezuzah bonfire caused a subsequent building fire.
The youths were released Tuesday morning to house arrest.
All six of the suspects are new immigrants from the former Soviet states. While some of them are Jewish, others are not and some come from families in which only one parent is Jewish according to Halacha.
In light of the affair, the Association for the Protection of Mixed Families' Rights called on the government to "stop assaulting the rights of immigrants who are not Jewish and to act to integrate them into Israeli society" in order to prevent such incidents.
"If only the State of Israel had acted to fully integrate mixed families into Israeli society, situations such as this one would not have occurred," said the organization's director, Dr. Ludmilla Oigenblick.
But Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yonah Metzger said the solution to the growing phenomenon of anti-Jewish incidents in Israel was in prosecution and not integration.
"One should not sweep this problem under the carpet and say that this is just a case of wild youths. There is no doubt that anti-Jewish behavior such as this has even deeper roots."