Passing an art legacy on to the next generation


During the lengthy visits she would have with her great-uncle and great-aunt, David and Rivka Labkovski, at their home in South Africa, Leora Raikin — who was a young girl at the time — recalls these relatives being a bit eccentric.

David owned one pair of shoes, and Rivka — the sister of Raikin’s grandmother Zlata Spektor — had but two dresses. Husband and wife wanted herring with every meal, a carryover from the frugal ways they lived during the years they spent in a Siberian prison camp during the Holocaust. 

“He used to take my face in his hands and say, ‘Do you want to be smart or do you want to be pretty?’ and I would say, ‘Can’t I be both?’ ” Raikin said. “With Rivka, it was all about knowledge, intellectual ability and learning something new every day. She always wanted to know, ‘What have you learned today?’ ”

David Labkovski had been an artist in his native Vilna, Lithuania, and during eight years in a Siberian prison camp, where he served as a sketch and tattoo artist. After the war, he resumed his artistic career in Israel, where he lived in the artist colony of Safed from 1958 until his death in 1991.

Labkovski would sometimes give Raikin a painting or a sketch as a present. She always hoped the gift would be “one of the happy ones,” such as a picture of flowers. 

Not all of Labkovski’s work was so upbeat. 

His imagery covers a spectrum, from images of his homeland, including scenes of everyday life in Vilna and its Nazi occupation during the war and its destruction during the Holocaust. Labkovski returned to Vilna in 1946 and met with survivors, capturing their memories on canvas. He also produced a series of works portraying the characters of Sholem Aleichem.

Works spanning Labkovski’s career are represented in the exhibition “The Art and Life of David Labkovski,” on display at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust (LAMOTH) through June 14. The LAMOTH exhibition marks the first time a comprehensive collection of Labkovski’s work will be seen in the United States. His family regained possession of the collection nearly three years ago, after a lengthy court dispute in Israel over ownership of the works. 

During his lifetime, Labkovski’s views on the placement of his art were as complex and conflicted as the man himself. He wanted the work seen in the Diaspora, but only when the viewers — particularly the next generation — were ready for it. He refused to sell his work, and, after a 1959 exhibition of his work in Israel, he and Rivka concluded that the time was not right, according to Raikin. 

“The audiences in Israel were not ready to confront the horrors of the Holocaust. It was an Old World thing — they wanted to move forward,” Raikin said. “David and Rivka had this absolute belief that one day a generation will come along that will appreciate this life that was lost, the enormity of it.”

According to Raikin, after the deaths of her great-aunt and great-uncle, the artwork was left to the city of Safed. A small museum was badly maintained and eventually fell into disarray, and the art eventually fell under court conservatorship, Raikin said. By the time the court case was settled and the art came to Raikin’s mother and her siblings, more than 20 years had passed. 

An artist herself, Raikin wanted the work to be seen, and she found people of like minds in Connie Marco and Lisa Lainer-Fagan, both of whom are parents of students at New Community Jewish High School (NCJHS) in West Hills. Marco, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, also volunteered at LAMOTH and worked closely with the museum’s executive director, Samara Hutman. 

Hutman studied the Labkovski collection — the haunting self-portraits, the vibrant depictions of market scenes and shtetl life — and immediately knew that she would put the paintings on display. 

“There was something incredibly prescient in the mind of the artist,” Hutman said, “to sort of hold his body of work together to keep the integrity of the collection and of the vision and to save it for when the time is right.

“The work is magnificent, and I think there’s something in really incredible alignment for us to exhibit this work,” she added. “It has a lot of symmetry with the narrative of the museum. It is all about finding these little shards and remnants of a world that was blown apart by the Holocaust, and now we’re all in this work of recovery and excavation and redignification.” 

The more people who saw Labkovski’s work and heard Raikin’s story, the more his great-niece was encouraged to get the art displayed, and the more the circle of support grew. A smaller version of the exhibition had an initial stop at the school, where a group of art students co-curated the exhibition under the guidance of art instructor Benny Ferdman.

Labkovski’s work resonated not only with the art students, but with a spectrum of departments across the NCJHS campus. In addition to the eight co-curators — who argued and debated which works should be included — two film students are assembling a documentary about the Labkovski experience. Students have written poetry that accompanies the work at the school and at LAMOTH, and a student sang a song in Yiddish about Vilna at the openings.

This was the first time such a cross-department art display had come together at the school, said Ferdman, arts director and artist-in-residence at NCJHS.

“When you look at an artist’s work over time and place, that kind of turns the work into an artifact as well,” Ferdman said. “Beyond its aesthetic value, it becomes the witness to a time and place. It was like a little time machine from the past coming to us now.”  

Wherever the journey next takes Labkovski’s art after LAMOTH, Raikin feels that by passing through young hands, the work has found its place again.

“I think we all feel it’s our responsibility to make sure this next generation cares,” Raikin said. “That the [NCJHS] students were so involved and vested, that superseded any dream I possibly could have had. It would have made David and Rivka so, so happy to have seen these students so interested. I can walk away and say I feel safe. I feel that these kids get it. They can pass it on.” 

For more information on “The Art and Life of David Labkovski,” visit lamoth.org.

American indicted in Israel for murder


An American accused of murdering a Safed resident was indicted in an Israeli court.

Avraham Levi Yosef Blau was charged Sunday in Nazareth District Court with the murder of Tony Rose, The Jerusalem Post reported. It is believed the men knew each other, though it is not known what caused the April 13 attack at a synagogue in Safed.

Blau reportedly stabbed Rose as many as 17 times with a commando knife. Blau reportedly was homeless at the time.

Blau’s attorney has asked that he be evaluated by a psychiatrist to determine if he is fit to stand trial. Israel’s Justice Ministry is waiting for information about Blau to come from the United States, the Post reported.

EU official lauds Israel for treating injured Syrians


A European Union official based in Israel praised the Jewish state for providing medical treatment to Syrian civilians injured in their country’s civil war.

EU Ambassador-designate Lars Faaborg-Andersen on Wednesday visited the Ziv Medical Center in Safed to see the care being provided to the injured Syrians. More than 300 Syrians have been brought to Israel for treatment since the civil war began about 2 1/2 years ago.

“I was deeply impressed by the dedication of the medical staff that is sparing no effort to provide the injured patients, many of them children, with the best possible medical care,” Faaborg-Andersen said in a statement. “This commitment to the welfare of other human beings, regardless of the fact that they belong to an enemy nation, should be a source of pride to all Israelis.”

Earlier this month, a 20-year-old woman became the first Syrian civilian fleeing the civil war to give birth in Israel, according to reports.

No Western Wall bat mitzvah for Paula Abdul after all


Paula Abdul canceled her much-hyped bat mitzvah at the Western Wall, opting instead for a low-key ceremony in the town of Safed, The Times of Israel reports.

Per Israel’s Tourism Industry, which hosted the former “American Idol” and “The X-Factor” judge, the switch was due to jet lag. But the officiating rabbi, Eyal Riess of the Tzfat Kabbalah Center, claims it was to avoid the media.

Either way, the deed is done. Mazel Tov!

Orthodoxy and ethics


One of the most prominent Orthodox rabbis of our time, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of Efrat, related the following story in the July 12-18 issue of the International Jerusalem Post:

“Let me tell you a true incident which for me is a metaphor of our times. A young man attended a yeshiva in Safed.

“The first morning, he arrived a bit late for breakfast and there was no milk left for his coffee. He went to the grocery, purchased a container of milk and placed the container in the yeshiva refrigerator with a sign, ‘Private property.’

“The next morning, the container was gone.

“He bought another container, on which he added to the previous sign, ‘Do not steal.’

“The next morning, that container, too, was missing.

“He purchased a new container, adding to the sign, ‘Questionable gentile milk’ (halav akum). This time no one took his container; he left the yeshiva.”

A year and a half ago in this column, I recounted a similar story that Rabbi Riskin had told me many years ago. It was about 10 candidates — handpicked talmudic scholarshe interviewed for the position of rosh yeshiva (head of yeshiva). Nine of them said that they would not return an extra electric shaver accidentally sent to them by a non-Jewish-owned department store. They contended that the halachah — one does not return a lost item to an idol worshipper — forbade them from doing so.

Unfortunately, pointing to Orthodox Jews who are not ethical in order to dismiss Orthodox Judaism has always been a popular pastime among many non-Orthodox Jews. One would have more respect for such criticisms if non-Orthodox and irreligious Jews were equally critical of themselves. The secular Yiddish press comprised the West’s most supportive group of Stalin and communism, and radical Jews were disproportionately involved in supporting that movement, one of the two monstrous, genocidal evils of the 20th century. Today, the Jews who are among the leading anti-Israel activists in the Western world are virtually all non-Orthodox. And the assimilation rate among non-Orthodox Jews is incomparably higher.

So no group of Jews ought to be casting stones, since all of us live in glass houses.

Moreover, at least the Orthodox have important voices like Rabbi Riskin, who criticize fellow Orthodox Jews on ethical grounds. Where are analogous Reform, Conservative or secular Jewish voices? One regularly hears liberal Jews — Reform, Conservative and secular — denouncing the Orthodox and denouncing political conservatives, but what about criticism of their own? When was the last time a liberal Reform rabbi spoke of the moral dangers of secularism? Or attacked the left for its widespread Israel-hatred? Is there a Reform rabbi who criticized the Reform movement’s former head for telling a Muslim audience that he “respects” the Muslim veil?

Nevertheless, the ethics problem within Orthodoxy is real.

I first confronted this dilemma when I was a student at a prominent yeshiva high school.

My classmate Joseph Telushkin and I conducted a survey and found fewer than five students among the 120 students in our grade whom we could identify as not cheating on tests.

When I later taught at Brooklyn College, I was told by Jewish and non-Jewish faculty that graduates of yeshiva high schools were the students most likely to cheat on tests.

A non-Jewish listener once called my radio show to ask me if Orthodox Jews are permitted to speak on the Sabbath. I asked him why he asked such a question. He told me that he lives in an Orthodox Jewish area of Los Angeles and that on Saturday mornings, when walking his dog, he would say “Good morning” to Jews wearing black hats walking to synagogue. They just don’t respond, he told me, and that’s why he wondered if speaking on the Sabbath is forbidden to Orthodox Jews.

In Israel, the ultra-Orthodox Charedi community comprises about 9 percent of Israel’s population and receives about half of the country’s welfare payments — despite the fact that the recipients are nearly all healthy and young.

Charedi men who serve in Israel’s armed forces are increasingly humiliated, ostracized and even beaten when they return to their Charedi communities (see the Jerusalem Post, for example).

It would be very valuable to see data — if such data exist — on how many Israeli Jews in the 65 years of Israel’s existence came to Judaism and how many were alienated from Judaism as a result of observing how Orthodox Israelis lead their lives. 

To many Orthodox Jews’ credit, these examples are troubling. Also, one should not forget the role played by the Charedi first-responders to terror attacks in Israel, as well as the low incidence of drug use and the strong family life that characterize Orthodox Jews. And, among the ultra-Orthodox, there is a group, Chabad, that does stand out for its nonjudgmental love of Jews and for acts of kindness.

But Orthodoxy must address the ethics problem, if for no other reason than to preserve its own credibility. If Orthodox Jews are merely ethically no better — forget worse — than non-Orthodox Jews or, for that matter, religious Christians, what does that say about Orthodox Judaism? If its huge number of laws don’t generally produce better people, what’s the point of Orthodoxy? 


Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host (AM 870 in Los Angeles) and founder of PragerUniversity.com. His latest book is the New York Times best seller “Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph” (HarperCollins, 2012).

Civilian airspace in northern Israel closed over fears


Israel closed the airspace in its North to civilian traffic following attacks on Syrian targets that were believed to be carried out by the Israeli military.

The closure comes after the Israeli military moved two Iron Dome missile defense batteries to northern Israel near Safed and Haifa on Sunday morning.

The Israeli domestic airline Arkia on Sunday canceled all flights from Haifa to Eilat for five days, saying in its statement that the closure was “due to IDF instructions on the closure of airspace in the North until May 9.”

Meanwhile, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Sunday that President Obama  believes “the Israelis are justifiably concerned about the threat posed by Hezbollah obtaining advanced weapons systems, including some long-range missiles.” The U.S. “is in very close contact” with the Israeli government, Earnest said.

Syrian state media accused Israel of an early Sunday morning attack on what it identified as the Jamraya military research center located approximately 10 miles from the border with Lebanon.

The Reuters news agency cited an unnamed “Western intelligence source” on Sunday who confirmed the attack and said Israel targeted stores of long-range Fateh-110 missiles that were in transit from Iran to Hezbollah. The missiles have the capacity to strike Tel Aviv from Lebanon. Israel's military did not confirm nor deny reports that it was responsible for the attack.

Israel was said to be responsible for an attack on a Syrian target two days earlier; it has not confirmed or denied the attack.

Six Syrian rebels hospitalized in Israel returned to Syria


Six wounded Syrian rebels who were treated in an Israeli hospital after being wounded in their country's civil war were repatriated.

The men were released Wednesday from Ziv Hospital in Safed and returned at an undisclosed location for their own safety, the Israel Defense Forces said in a statement.

A seventh Syrian requires further treatment and remains in the hospital. 

The Syrians returned to their country at their own request, Ynet reported, citing an unnamed source. The return was not coordinated with the Red Cross since it would have required coordination with the Syrian government via the United Nations peacekeeping force on the Golan Heights, which could have endangered the men, according to Ynet.

The men were wounded Feb. 16 near Israel's security fence with Syria in the Golan Heights during clashes between the Syrian army and rebel forces in Syria's 2-year-old civil war. Israeli soldiers brought the Syrians to Ziv Hospital. One of the Syrians was severely wounded; the rest were injured from bullets and shrapnel, with some requiring surgery.

Also Wednesday, a mortar fired from Syria landed in an open area in the Golan Heights and did not explode. It is believed to have been mistakenly fired into Israeli territory, according to reports.

Jailed in Israel, Marwan Barghouti says he’ll be president of Palestine


Marwan Barghouti, a convicted terrorist jailed in Israel, said he will be the president of a Palestinian state.

Barghouti also said in an interview reported Wednesday night on Israel's Channel 10 and conducted jointly with the Haaretz newspaper that he would not promise that there would not be a third intifada — unlike Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas — though he believes it could be a nonviolent uprising.

Military censors did not allow the actual film of the interview to be broadcast. Instead, Barghouti's comments were repeated by reporters. The interview had taken place last month during Israel's Operation Pillar of Defense in Gaza.

A member of the ruling Fatah party led by Abbas, Barghouti is among the most popular Palestinian leaders. Fatah controls the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and officially supports the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Barghouti is serving five consecutive life sentences and an additional 40 years for terrorist activity. He was arrested on April 15, 2002.

In the interview, he reportedly said he would not compromise on the right of return to Israel for Palestinian refugees and their descendents, saying the right of return is “sacred.” Abbas earlier this month said he did not need to return to his hometown of Safed.

Dybbuks, demons and exorcism in Judaism


“Civilized people lose their religion easily, but rarely their superstitions.”
— Karl Goldmark

Rabbi Isaac Luria, one of the greatest of Jewish mystics, would walk in the hills of 16th century Safed and point out to his students the souls of the dead, often standing on their graves. In the same city at the same time, the great legal scholar Joseph Karo, author of the Shulchan Aruch, the great code of Jewish Law, was composing another book dictated to him by an angel.

These visions were not as exceptional as modern Jews like to believe. Dybbuks and demons, possession and magic are woven throughout Jewish history. Amulets to ward off the evil eye, spitting, touching a mezuzah for good luck and a thousand other practices attest to the deep current of folk belief in Judaism. The next time someone persuades you that everything about Judaism is rational, logical and clear, you do not even need to tell them the story in rabbinic literature about the town that beat the river until the blood of the unwelcome water demon appeared. Just ask them to stand in a congregation while everyone is waving a lulav and spinning the etrog; the explanation may be logical, but the atmosphere is redolent of magic.

And yes, we Jews performed exorcisms, too. Anyone who spends time with rabbinic literature (or, for that matter, with the stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer) is familiar with demons. Jewish demons, like their counterparts in other traditions, like to inhabit people or simply upend them from time to time. Not only are there many discussions of demons in rabbinic literature, but also, as a result of demonic activity, there are many spells directed against them, as where there are demons, there must be defenses and antidotes. Some demons are granted names. (Ashmedai, from the book of Tobit, is among the most notable. He is the king of demons, and in the Talmud, King Solomon tricked him into helping with the construction of the Temple.) And there are endless discussions of their activities and depredations.

Exorcism reached a peak in the mystical community of 16th century Safed. The scholar J.H. Chajes has translated several accounts of spirit possession in Safed. One, in which a man named Samuel Zafrati entered a woman, involved Hayyim Vital, the principle disciple of the Ari, Rabbi Isaac Luria. He asked the spirit, “How can we be sure your name is Samuel Zafrati?” and the spirit, through the woman, accurately recounted all the details of the man’s life. “Then we recognized, all those present, that the spirit was the speaker.”

As the questioning and exorcism continued, the spirit was asked where he had been since his death three years before:

“I have gone from mountain to mountain, and from hill to hill. I did not find rest in any place, except that for a period I was in Shekhem, where I entered into one woman, and they removed me through the aforementioned and placed amulets upon her so that I was unable to return to her further.” The narrator then says that he knows all of this to be true from independent inquiries. The spirit continues: “After that I was roving through the city to enter synagogues [thinking that] perhaps I would find rest and comfort there for my soul, but they did not allow me to enter any synagogue.” The spirit then explained that the sages of the past did not permit him to enter, and so he wandered until he found this “kosher” woman to enter. And when asked if he thought it was legitimate to couple with a married woman, the spirit, with wonderful ethereal insouciance, answers, “What of it? Her husband is not here, but in Salonika!” 

With demons about, the consequences of a business trip could be dire.

The most eminent scholars of the time, Isaac Luria, Shlomo Alkabetz, Joseph Karo, Hayyim Vital and others were involved in exorcisms. Some were possessed themselves, like Karo, whose Maggid Mishna took hold of him and dictated, but such possession could on occasion be benevolent. The point is that this was not restricted to a fringe or the untutored; the world was rife with spirits.

Are such stories merely a quaint remnant of an earlier age? In 1999 in Dimona (a name whose origin is from Joshua 21, not from the seeming cognate “demon”), a widowed mother of eight claimed that her deceased husband had entered her body. Although several rabbis refused her an exorcism, one, Rabbi David Basri, head of the Shalom Yeshiva in Jerusalem, was equal to the task. Over the objections of many notable rabbis — and on Israeli national television — he performed the exorcism, apparently successfully.

For a while after this incident, there was a spate of claims of possession in Israel, but the wave abated. 

Some examples practically beg the listener to sneer. In his famous work Or Zarua, the 13th century rabbi Isaac ben Moses writes (recorded by Joshua Trachtenberg in his still valuable “Jewish Magic and Superstition”) of the married woman who had relations with a demon — who appeared once in the shape of her husband and once in the uniform of a local petty count. The question was — is she permitted to her husband after this demonic coupling? Was it adultery — was it voluntary? In the end, she was permitted to her husband by the rabbinic court. There is no report on the fate of the real petty count.

Jewish sources do at times distinguish mental illness from possession, although today we might be inclined to include all such stories in the category of mental disturbances. Recently I was teaching what might be reckoned the very first case of possession — the case of Saul:

“The spirit of God departed from Saul and an evil spirit of God tormented him. And Saul’s servants said to him, ‘Behold now, an evil spirit of God is tormenting you. Let our Lord command your servants, who are before you, to seek out a man, who knows how to play the lyre, and when the evil spirit of God is upon you, he will play with his hand and all will be well.” (I Samuel 16:14-16)

When David, who was then summoned, played music for Saul, it did indeed cure him, at least temporarily. So if this was an exorcism — a matter debated in the sources — then King David was the first recorded exorcist. It gives the profession a noble pedigree, at least.

What was notable in teaching this incident to my Torah class was that not a single member of the class was tempted to interpret this as anything but an internal event in Saul — that is, not an external spirit that afflicted him but a mental disturbance. Although exorcisms are a radical example, we have turned religious experience into a neurological datum: visions are hysteria, trances mania, and prophesies seizures. A desacralized world is more devastating to demons than any exorcist. Vampires make good television and zombies are a mainstay of horror lit, but in life a taste for blood or a lack of affect wrapped in masking tape lead us to grab the DSM and scissors, not a cross and silver bullet.

The meaning of exorcism is tied up for many in issues of gender (some believe this was a bursting forth of frustration from constraint for women or even of obtaining some public power, although plenty of men reported possessions as well) or of Christian influence (although scholars debate whether Jewish exorcisms were a result of the upsurge in the Christian world).  Most of all, it reflects the belief, deeply held and derived from the Talmud, that we were constantly surrounded by invisible forces. In a world of suffering, who could believe that such forces would never be malevolent?

It seems so reminiscent of an outgrown age. And yet … we retain some suspicion, evident in traces of our language, of an earlier world view: “I am not myself today.” “I don’t know what got into me.” Even splitting off selves from essence — “I don’t know who I am” — is a sign of the duality of nature we feel and the way in which boundaries of the self sometimes feel porous. We, too, seek shamans and rabbis and healers, though they often go by different names. And madness, true madness, seems still as though it was a grip from outside more than an internal malady.

Far as we have come, our knowledge is still a small homestead on the vast landscape of our ignorance.


David Wolpe is the rabbi of Sinai Temple. You can follow his teachings at facebook.com/RabbiWolpe.

Probe launched into Safed rabbi’s anti-Arab comments


Israel’s attorney general has opened a criminal investigation on suspicion of incitement to racism against the chief rabbi of Safed.

The probe of Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, who signed a religious ruling against renting apartments to non-Jews, stems from anti-Arab comments he made several months ago during media interviews, according to reports. Numerous complaints have been lodged with the attorney general’s office over the comments.

Eliyahu reportedly said that “Arab culture is very cruel” and “Arabs have a different codes and norms that have become ideology. Such as the agricultural thefts, which have become part of Arab ideology.” Also, “A Jew should not run away from an Arab. A Jew should chase away Arabs,” and “Expelling Arabs from Jewish neighborhoods is part of the strategy.”

Eliyahu signed a rabbinic letter in October 2010 calling on Jews not to rent or sell apartments to non-Jews. It is believed that the letter, which was signed by 50 rabbis, was directed against Arab college students in Safed.

Vandalism on Safed synagogues being probed as retaliation for mosque arson


Police are investigating vandalism on four synagogues in Safed as possible retaliation for a mosque arson in northern Israel.

The words “Death to Jews” were spray-painted on the synagogues and a car Tuesday night in the northern Israeli city.

The mosque arson took place on Oct. 2 in the Bedouin Arab town of Tuba Zanghariya. Two Arab cemeteries in Jaffa also were vandalized last week.

“This is an unusual phenomenon, which does not characterize the nature of the relationship between Jews and Arabs in Safed,” the city’s mayor, Ilan Shohat, told Haaretz. “Just as we condemn the desecration of Islamic holy sites, so we condemn despicable acts like this.”

Two suspects, men with ties to the West Bank, have been arrested in the mosque arson. The attack is being called a “price tag” attack, in which extremist settlers exact a price in attacks on Palestinians in retribution for settlement freezes and demolitions or for Palestinian attacks on Jews.

The mosque attack referenced the death of a West Bank resident who was killed in a rock attack on his car.

Safed teens indicted for torching Arab cars


Two Jewish teens from Safed have been indicted for setting fire to two cars owned by Arab students.

The teens were indicted Thursday for torching the cars as revenge for the murder of five members of the Fogel family in the West Bank Jewish settlement of Itamar. They deny the allegations.

The two cars owned by Arab students at the Safed Academic College were set alight March 16 following a campus event to promote dialogue between Jews and Arabs.

Anti-Arab graffiti also was spray-painted on the walls of the college following the event, according to reports. “Arabs get out,” “Death to Arabs” and “Kahane was right” were among the epithets.

The event broke down into heated discussions, including whether Arabs have a place in the Jewish state, Haaretz reported.

Tensions between Jews and Arabs in the mixed city have been on the rise for months, spurred by a call last fall from the city’s chief rabbi asking Jews not to rent to non-Jews, specifically Arabs.

Many Arab students attend the college and rent apartments nearby.

Arab-owned cars set afire in Safed


Two cars owned by Arab students at the Safed Academic College were set alight following a campus event to promote dialogue between Jews and Arabs.

Anti-Arab graffiti also was spray-painted on the walls of the college following Tuesday night’s event, according to reports. “Arabs get out,” “Death to Arabs” and “Kahane was right” were among the epithets.

The event broke down into heated discussions, including whether Arabs have a place in the Jewish state, Haaretz reported.

The college condemned the incident. Galilee police are searching for the vandals.

Tensions between Jews and Arabs in the mixed city have been on the rise for months, spurred by a call last fall from the city’s chief rabbi asking Jews not to rent to non-Jews, specifically Arabs.

Many Arab students attend the college and rent apartments nearby.

Safed rabbi refuses police summons over anti-Arab letter


The Chief Rabbi of Safed, Shmuel Eliyahu, said he would refuse to respond to a police summons for questioning on suspicion of incitement to racism.

Eliyahu reportedly did not present himself to Jerusalem police on Sunday, as ordered, over a letter signed by nearly 50 municipal rabbis calling on the Jewish public not to rent or sell homes to non-Jews, specifically Arabs.

The official reason given for not answering the summons was time restrictions, the Jerusalem Post reported. But Eliyahu reportedly said, according to the Jerusalem Post that he “asked whether David Grossman, Yossi Sarid and Shulamit Aloni, who demonstrated against Jewish presence in the Shimon Hatzadik (Sheikh Jarrah) neighborhood, were also summoned for questioning. Were there summonses for the heads of the Jewish National Fund, whose constitution prohibits selling apartments to non- Jews? If not, double standards are being applied here, and I don’t intend on playing into the hands of a legal system that acts in a non-egalitarian manner.”

Meanwhile, a letter from Israeli intellectuals, politicians and artists released over the weekend calls on the government to fire the rabbis who signed the original letter.

“There is an immediate need to fire these rabbis, who are inciting and threatening to turn Judaism into racism, and see to it that they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” the intellectuals’ letter read. “There are only two options: a proper, equal, free and normal country or a violent, racist dictatorship that will destroy Israel. Those who choose the first option must act immediately.”

Find distributors of anti-Arab leaflets, Safed police ordered


The Israeli prosecutor’s office has ordered Safed police to investigate anti-Arab leaflets that were distributed throughout the city.

The prosecutor’s office on Sunday ordered the arrest of the fliers’ distributors, who likely would be charged with incitement to racism and insulting a public figure, Ynet reported.

The fliers criticized Mayor Ilan Shohat , saying that his support for the establishment of a medical school in Safed would bring more secular and Arab students to the city. More than half of the student body at the Academic College in Safed are Arab, according to Haaretz.

Last month, a group of rabbis that included the chief rabbi of Safed signed a letter calling on Jews in the northern Israel city not to rent apartments to Arabs or non-Jews saying it would bring down property values.

Safed banking on Rosh Hashanah visitation by Madonna