Tapuchi at arson site.
Tapuchi at arson site.Eitan Elhadez

Yonadav Tapuchi, a young man in his 20's, lives in a Jewish town in Samaria and sports long sidelocks and a large kippah on his head; in short, he looks very much like a "settler extremist."

He visited the Arab village of Duma on Sunday for a condolence visit to the family whose baby was killed in a fire apparently set by Jewish terrorists.

Yonadav wrote on his Facebook page that his purpose was to express words of condolence, and also to "give a clear message that there are some acts that have no justification, whether they are directed against Jews or against Arabs...I emphasized that though I am of the right-wing and support the expansion of the settlement enterprise, there are some approaches that are simply not legitimate, and that they are not supported by the Jews of Judea and Samaria."

The trip to Duma was organized by a left-wing group called Tag Meir (Illuminating Tag), which is a Hebrew play on words on Tag Mechir, the nationalist "Price Tag" group that aims to avenge anti-Jewish violence and destruction. 

Tapuchi acknowledged in his post that there are many in Judea and Samaria who are disgusted by the one-way nature of condolence trips of this sort, in that the Jews immediately condemn and express remorse over such violence, while the Arabs openly support the murder of Jews.

Hatred-filled talk

"I had difficult feelings after my trip," Yonadav wrote, "which can be divided into three groups. First, there is no doubt that this was a shocking crime. It is simply terrible to wake up in the middle of the night to find your house and family going up in flames, to escape by the skin of your teeth, and then to find that you have lost a son. ...My condolences to the family; may they know no more pain."

"The second area concerns the anthropological experience I had on the bus filled with veteran left-wing activists from Tel Aviv – a horrific scene of hatred-filled talk: hatred of settlers, hatred of the religious, and especially of haredim; hatred of the State of Israel; and explanations why it was a moral imperative to leave and move to another country.

"When we arrived at the village, we were surrounded by Arab photographers. We were informed that the original plan had been changed, and that before visiting the actual mourning family, we would first see the burnt houses. Thus, a bunch of Jews with their heads held low were photographed near and in the burnt houses and the Hebrew graffiti there. A representative of the family and the village then gave a short speech ('the settlers should expect the worst!,' he warned). We were then told that actually, the village is quite up in arms, and that it would not be convenient for us to actually comfort the mourning family, and that we had better leave fast.

"I and others felt that this whole thing was a media trick to get the 'Yahud' [Arabic for 'the Jews' – ed.] to take part in humiliating set of photos near the buildings, and that they had never planned to allow us to come in actual contact with the family."

The third set of impressions that Yonadav Tapuchi came away with concerned the suspicious nature of the alleged arson. He did not mention that there have been reports of an ongoing, 18-year feud between two clans in Duma that might be related to the murderous arson. In addition, one of the two graffiti messages – the single word nekamah, meaning "revenge" – has calligraphic elements that raise the suspicion that it was actually sprayed by an Arab.

The more curious aspects of the story

Tapuchi wrote: "Throughout the trip we heard explanations in Arabic, most of which were translated. We heard their story of the incident. It was impossible to ignore some of the more curious aspects of the story. I would start with the fact that the two houses (I had always thought only one house was burnt) are located in the center of the village, and that in order to get there we had to travel a number of minutes from the entrance. Duma is spread out over a gigantic area, and the houses are situated at the end of a winding road, among fences and yards.

"According to the Duma version, the attackers burnt one house, then saw that it was empty, and so they went to set fire to the next house. The second house is enclosed by a fence, and the windows are covered by a dense lattice; a firebomb cannot be hurled through the windows, and in any event it is very hard to reach the windows behind the fence. The arsonists had to go around the house, enter the yard, and place the firebombs through the lattice. According to the Duma version, the attackers entered the house, stood over the parents and did not let them leave until the flames engulfed the house. Only then did the arsonists run away from the village.

"I can only say that when the arsonists are ultimately caught, we will get to hear a fascinating story of why they chose to navigate their way all the way into the middle of the village, and how they had time to set a house on fire, wait to find that it was empty, then walk around and enter another house and set it on fire, wait with the parents, spray graffiti in two places – including with a little design of a crown! – and then run away through the middle of the village with all the townspeople surely already up and on their feet seeing the flames and hearing the family's cries. Something here is very fishy…"

Yonadav concluded with the hope that next time, "a trip like this must be organized by residents of Judea and Samaria – not to be swallowed up by the apologetics of the left, but to constructively explain why we oppose violence."