An 89-year old Jewish man has become the latest target of an organized campaign to rid the Israeli town of Safed of Palestinian-Israelis (Palestinians with Israeli citizenship). On Tuesday, posters appeared all over town denouncing the man for renting an apartment to three Palestinian-Israeli students studying at Safed College.The public humiliation of the elderly gentleman comes just days after a gang of around thirty Jewish youth attacked a building housing Palestinian-Israeli students, breaking windows and illegally firing a government-issued rifle with live ammunition while shouting “Death to Arabs”.
The elderly apartment owner told reporters that he has also been threatened with violence by anti-Arab leaders in the town, and was told that his building would be torched if he did not evict the Arab students.
While the violence and threats have mainly been carried out by youth, the town’s leadership, including the Chief Rabbi of Safed, have encouraged the campaign with anti-Arab rhetoric and edicts. Chief Rabbi Eliyahu was one of 17 rabbis who issued a public edict to the residents of Safed to refuse to rent property to Arab students. The town’s mayor has also spoken against the presence of Arab students in Safed.
Three weeks ago, the town leadership held an ’emergency council’ to decry the increase in Arab students enrolled in the local college this term, and calling for the students to be removed from the town.
The 89-year old long-time resident of Safed who was targeted in Tuesday’s campaign, said that although he is scared, he knows that he has the support of other long-term residents of the town, many of whom, like him, moved there as refugees from Europe after World War II. He told reporters with the Israeli daily Ha’aretz that he felt an obligation to house the students because “They’re in school every day and needed a place to sleep at night.’
Prior to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, Safed was a Palestinian town, but was depopulated by Jewish gangs in 1948, and the ‘Arab quarter’ became a haven for Jewish artists and mystics.