'We're a bunch of sitting ducks,' say neighbors of slain Chabadnik

Raphael Miriashvili found dead as violence in Israel's streets grows.

In the crowded, rundown Lod neighborhood known as Shikun Chabad, where Raphael Miriashvili grew up and where his family now quietly sits mourning his death, the feeling on the streets was that violence, especially Arab violence, had spiralled out of control. "Our blood is cheap," a dark-complexioned man who identified himself as Abraham said, as a crowd of men slowly gathered under a tree to escape the sweltering sun and to watch his interview with The Jerusalem Post just outside the Beit Aryeh Yeshiva. Black-and-white mourning notices of Miriashvili's funeral, held Monday night, were plastered all over the walls of the yeshiva. "We are a bunch of sitting ducks, afraid to go out of our homes at night while the Arabs go crazy and the police do nothing about it," added Abraham. Other residents, some carrying their talit and tefillin, joined in, saying that the situation in Lod, one of the few cities in which Arabs and Jews live together, was becoming unbearable. In recent days there has been a spate of violence, sparking sharp criticism against police for their seeming inability to protect citizens. In Ramle, a city adjacent to Lod, a 16-year-old yeshiva student named Yiftah Mor-Yosef was mistakenly killed in a drive-by shooting, and last Friday Leonard Karp, whose mother lives in Lod, was killed by a group of men from the Arab village of Jaljulya while visiting the Tel Baruch beach with his wife and daughter. Although police had yet to find evidence of foul play, Shikun Chabad's residents were certain that Miriashvili had been murdered by a particular Arab man or his associates. "There is no doubt that he came looking for Raphael," said a young man named Yossi, who lives in the same building where Miriashvili grew up. "This was a revenge killing." Miriashvili and two other Shikun Chabad residents, now afraid for their lives, were involved in the kidnapping of an Arab man who allegedly was having a sexual relationship with a Jewish woman. Miriashvili went into action after hearing the Jewish woman's mother cry for help during a radio interview on a haredi station. He served a year of an 18-month sentence for the crime. "It is so like him to want to help another Jew," said Haim Galinsky, commander of ZAKA's 770 unit, manned primarily by members of Lod's Chabad community. The number 770 is also the address of Chabad headquarters in Brooklyn, New York. "He just jumped up and did something without thinking about the consequences," added Galinsky, who lives in the same building with the Miriashvili family. A month ago Miriashvili, who had finished a training course to become a ritual slaughterer, dissappeared on his way to Safed to begin work in a slaughterhouse there. Galinsky rejected criticism that not enough had been done by Chabad to search for Miriashvili. "Although it is true that Chabad as a whole did not enlist its members in a search for Miriashvili, guys in ZAKA, all of whom are Chabadniks, started searching for him up north just a few days after he went missing." However, Galinsky admitted that Miriashvili was not particularly gregarious and while he always was willing to help, he and his family tended to be less involved socially. While Chabad is known for its emissaries who live in far-flung locations and are involved in Jewish outreach, Miriashvili and many of his neighbors in Shikun Chabad belong to a growing group of Chabad followers who live in segregated neighborhoods and lead lives similar to many other haredi groups. What they have in common is the centrality in their lives of the last leader of Chabad, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, whose pictures are prominently displayed in the living rooms of every Chabad follower's house. Miriashvili, 25, is survived by his mother Chani, who remarried after being divorced, his father, two brothers and three sisters. He was laid to rest in the Lod Cemetery.