Safed College - Dror Artzi
Safed College Photo by Dror Artzi
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A Border Police officer and his civilian friend were charged on Sunday with using live fire during a clash between Jewish and Arab in the northern city of Safed last weekend.

Some 30 youngsters from Safed attacked several Arab students who live in an apartment in the town's center on Friday night.

Nobody was hurt, but police arrested three suspects in the assault. The attack was seen as a reflection of the rising tension over the growth in the Arab population in Safed, mostly students at Safed College who are residing in the city.

Civilian Safed resident 20-year-old civilian Raziel Rubenstein, and 20-year-old Border Police officer Abraham Elmakis, have now been charged with opening fire during the incident.

According to the indictment, Rubenstein and Elmakis were strolling through the city when they came upon three local girls. Elmakis was carrying his army-issued M-16 rifle at the time.

As the two groups met, an Arab driver sped past them. The girls told Elmakis and Rubeinstein that they were worried that the local Arabs had "taken over the city."

They continued on toward the city park, where they met up with an additional 30 youths. The group began to discuss what they termed "the rising problem of Arabs in Safed, who are harming the personal security of Jewish girls."

The group decided to head for the downtown pedestrian mall to demonstrate outside of the buildings where the local Arab students rented rooms. They reached their destination just after midnight.

The mass group of Jewish youths began shouting "death to Arabs", "stinking Muslims" and "a Jew has a soul and an Arab is a son-of-a-bitch" at the house. They began throwing bottles and stones at the student housing.

One of the bottles soared through an open window, shattering glass in an apartment where a number of students were sitting at the time. The students responded by hurling things from their house onto the road.

According to the indictment, Elmakis handed his rifle to Rubeinstein at this point. Rubeinstein allegedly cocked the weapon and fired a single shot. The group of Jewish youth ran from the scene and the Arab youth hid in the apartment.

About two weeks prior to this incident, chief Safed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu and other prominent rabbis called not to rent or sell apartments to non-Jews.

The rabbis also held what they called an "emergency gathering" whose speakers said the college was enabling the influx because most of its students are Arabs.

Eliyahu called to keep Arab students out of Safed College some eight years ago, after a suicide attack on a bus at Meron junction, after an Arab student had reportedly been warned of the attack by one of the terrorists.

Eliyahu was indicted for incitement to racism for this and other statements he had made at that time. But the indictment was revoked about four years ago, following an agreement in which he promised to publish a clarification of his statements.