Two cars belonging to Arab students at the Safed Academic College were torched before dawn yesterday.

One of the burned cars was owned by a Muslim student and the other by a Christian. Another car parked alongside them in the student parking lot was damaged by the flames. Police are investigating the incident.

The vandals also spray-painted anti-Arab slogans on the college walls, such as "Death to the Arabs," "Arabs out," "Vengeance" and "Kahane was right" - the last a reference to the founder of the banned Kach party, Rabbi Meir Kahane.

Ali Na'ami, the owner of one of the torched cars, is a second-year student in behavioral science. He said that the previous night, he had been involved in a yelling match that erupted at a conference organized by the college on "The multicultural space - from conflict to dialogue." He is convinced the torching of his car is related to that.

"A bitter argument erupted at the conference between Jews and Arabs," he related. "They yelled at us that the State of Israel is the state of the Jews and is meant for the Jewish people, while we, as Arabs, have no place in it. It's important to note that there were also people who weren't students at the conference," he said.

"I and my classmates, including some Jewish students, walked out in protest. There was a lot of anger. Such things should not be said," he added.

Mohammed Ghanaim, a representative of the college's Arab students, blamed the vandalism on a letter by Safed's chief rabbi, Shmuel Eliyahu, urging people not to rent apartments to Arabs.

"The situation is getting worse and worse," he said. "We respect the town and its residents, but the attacks on us never stop. We came to Safed solely to study, and we want attitudes toward us to improve."

He noted that he had asked the college to station a guard in the student dorm, but it refused, citing the cost.

Yesterday, some 200 Jewish and Arab students held a protest against the vandalism.

The college said it condemns all attacks on student property and all expressions of hostility against Arab students by extremists - who, it added, do not represent the views of most Safed residents. It also said it has decided to beef up security at the dorm, including by installing cameras in the building.