Makor Baruch residents see attack on Arabs as justified

"It's not okay that Arabs come here. They should be kicked out of the area and out of the city," one says.

haredim meah shearim (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
haredim meah shearim
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A day after a group of haredi youths assaulted two Arab men in Jerusalem's Makor Baruch neighborhood Tuesday, area residents expressed anger and concern over the presence of Arabs in the area. According to some eyewitnesses, the youths started attacking the Arabs following a heated discussion near a convenience store on Rehov Tahkemoni. Following the incident, the Arabs took refuge in a house across the street, where a family was sitting shiva. The family protected the Arabs until the crowd dispersed. The assault came on the heels of a terror attack in the capital that afternoon, where an Arab construction worker from east Jerusalem drove a tractor into several cars and wounded 15 people. "It's not okay that Arabs come here. They should be kicked out of the area and out of the city," said Aharon, a Makor Baruch resident. "They break into stores and cars. It's happened several times that Arabs have attacked Jews here. They represent a threat." Aharon blamed the media and the police, who he said favored the Arabs and allowed them to commit criminal acts. "The Arabs feel that the media work for their good and that the police don't do anything to them, so they do what they want," he said. "The police are very lenient with the Arabs and very strict with the Jews." Other residents defended the Arabs and called the Tuesday attack an expression of racism. While they felt that terrorists should face punishment, they condemned attacks on innocent Arabs. "We can't act with Arabs this way," said Hayim, a yeshiva student who lives in the area. "We need to treat them better. We should avenge acts of terrorism, but I know a lot of Arabs who have helped a lot of Jews. I wouldn't help Arabs, though, because I wouldn't want to put myself in danger." Several residents condemned general violence against Arabs but said this assault had been justified because the Arabs had provoked an argument with the local shopkeeper, while others said that the Arabs had begun to attack children and that the youths had then assaulted them because the police were not responding to calls. "We waited for [the police] for 17 minutes," said a student at the nearby Shalom Yeshiva who witnessed the incident from his balcony. "The Arabs were stabbing people, and then they started attacking the crowd with chairs and with a metal bar. People from a nearby yeshiva saw this happening and descended on them." The atmosphere at the intersection where the attack happened remained tense on Wednesday, and the store where the incident began was closed. According to some residents, such incidents are characteristic of Jerusalem Arabs, who they claim have perpetrated many attacks and have broken into local property in the past. Avraham, a Jerusalem resident who studies at a yeshiva in Hebron, believes that the youths did the right thing by attacking the Arabs, but said that they did not go far enough. "The nature of the act was okay, but as long as [that feeling] expresses itself only in isolated incidents, an Arab here and an Arab there, it won't help," he said. "If there is a general uprising, where any Jew who sees an Arab in his area catches him, Arabs will know that they can't do anything in Jewish areas. That will prevent attacks." In light of Tuesday's incident and the earlier terror attack, many residents believed that the solution to the violence lay in the separation of Arabs and Jews and said they would rather Arabs didn't come into their neighborhood. "These terror attacks don't come from Gaza or Hamas, they come from people who live with us. As long as there is no clear separation between us, nothing will help," Avraham said. His sentiments were echoed by others in the area. Residents were more sympathetic to the family that protected the Arabs. While many said that they would not have helped the Arabs themselves, they did not think the family was wrong. "I understand what the family did, but I don't know if they were right," said Avraham. "People shouldn't be bothered if they're doing what they think is right." Members of the family were reluctant to talk about the incident, but said that they wanted the area to stay calm. "There was an attack, and they came in," said one of the family members. "We don't want to fight with anyone."