Members of the OU Israel Youth Branch in Nazareth Illit pitched in Monday to help clean and fix the Bnei Akiva youth movement branch in the city, which was vandalized two weeks ago. The vandals desecrated the Bnei Akiva branch's synagogue and caused extensive damage to the structure that houses the branch.
Prayer books and other holy books in the synagogue were were desecrated and burned. In addition, Israel flags were defiled, equipment cabinets were overturned, fluorescent lights were broken and paint was spilled in every direction.
Two youths spotted
Two youths were spotted leaving the branch on the night of the vandalism and it appears, from statements made after the event, that the branch leaders suspect local Arabs of causing the destruction, but this has not been confirmed.
The OU Israel youth arrived at the branch Monday with many buckets of paint in order to repaint and renovate. They worked into the night and stayed so late that police showed up, thinking that another break-in was in progress.
Haim Plezner, OU Israel's Deputy Projects Director, said: “As a graduate of the movement, it was a deep shock to hear about the branch's defilement and the desecration of holy books, and therefore we decided to do something about it, and help renovate the branch. Mutually guaranteeing each other's welfare and helping others are values that are always in our minds.”
Repeated harassment by Arabs
Sources in Bnei Akiva said that the branch has been in operation for 40 years, and that one of its main goals is to strengthen Jewish pride in the city.
The branch is located in the city's northern neighborhood, which has seen large scale encroachment by Arabs. In recent years, the branch has suffered repeated harassment by Arabs, who often show up at the location – sometimes pestering the Jewish youths.
Locals said that the city – which was originally built as the Jewish neighbor of Arab Nazareth – is being flooded by Arabs, who are buying houses from Jews, sometimes at very high prices. Many Jews have been leaving Nazareth Illit and moving to nearby Afula or central Israel.
On the other hand, there is intense activity by Torah nucleus groups and communities, and five years ago, a hesder yeshiva was founded.