A group of five Jews was attacked in Jaffa (Yafo) on Saturday night near an ice cream shop. The five, four women and one man, are all IDF soldiers, but they were not wearing their uniforms or carrying weapons. They stopped for ice cream after a day at the beach, they said, and were set upon by ten Arab youths with sticks.

The Arabs began hitting the front windshield of their car and attempted to forcibly drag one person from the car. The Jewish victims managed to drive away, but not before their vehicle sustained damage from the attack.

“They won’t go to Yafo anymore, not for the ice cream, not for anything,” said Yitzchak Cohen, the father of one of the soldiers. Cohen said that the group was attacked because they are Jews, and said that others should know what is happening in Yafo.

Jews in Yafo, which borders southern Tel Aviv, have been complaining of Arab bullying which has resulted in Jewish emigration from the city. Arabs assaulting Jews, threatening them, and spitting upon them are as commonplace as Hamas and PLO flags fluttering from Arab windows.

'Yafo is where modern Zionism began. It was Tel Aviv before Tel Aviv became Tel Aviv'

"All the Jewish residents who could afford to leave Yafo have already left," says Yisrael Zeira, head of Rosh Yehudi, a Tel Aviv-based organization for promoting Jewish education and values. He says the Islamists recently held a rally in Yafo in which they reaffirmed that taking over the city and driving the Jews out was a strategic aim.

Rosh Yehudi plans to send 15 religious-Zionist families to live in Yafo, in the summer of 2007. Zeira says that the presence of a network of young, idealistic families will hopefully raise the morale of Yafo's remaining Jews. In addition, it will found a religious school and an office for organizing tours of Yafo. The tours will be offered to Israelis, schoolchildren, and tourists from abroad.

"Yafo is where modern Zionism began," says Zeira. "It was Tel Aviv before Tel Aviv became Tel Aviv."  The seat of one of the most important rabbinical posts in the Land of Israel was that of Chief Rabbi of Yafo and the Moshavot [Farming Communities], assumed by Rabbi Avraham Yitzhak HaCohen Kook in 1904.

After touring Yafo to monitor the increased Arab violence, MK Eliyahu Gabai (National Union / National Religious Party) declared, "There is almost no Jewish family that is not harassed." He noted that Arabs routinely throw rocks at the Jews, and have even broken synagogue windows during prayers. Several prominent old synagogues in the Israeli town have closed down.

Shabtai, an apartment owner in the Tel Aviv suburb, says that Arab attacks on Jews were unheard of in the first five decades after Israel's independence, but have become common in recent years. Shabtai claims that the escalation in assaults is a reaction to Israel's policies of concessions to the Arabs which, he says, broadcast weakness and confusion.

Other Israeli cities where Arabs and Jews live side by side have also suffered from increased Arab attacks including Yafo, Akko, Ramle and Lod.