Eli Tzavielin - Artzi - Nov 2, 2010
Eli Tzavieli, a Safed apartment owner who decided to rent to Bedouin students. Photo by Dror Artzi
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Safed was plastered with posters on Tuesday denouncing a long-time resident for renting an apartment to three Bedouin studying at the local college.

The apartment owner, Eli Tzavieli, had decided to go through with the rental despite threats that his home would be torched.

The posters are the latest episode in an ongoing campaign waged by certain Safed residents, led by chief municipal rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, to halt the influx of Arab students attracted by the college.

Residents who oppose this campaign believe that, in light of a recent incident in which three Arab students were brutally attacked, the posters could incite an attack on the 89-year-old Tzavieli, who is named explicitly on the signs.

Tzavieli, the posters charged, "is returning the Arabs to Safed!! It's a crying shame!!!"

The evening before the posters appeared, Tzavieli, who immigrated to Israel after World War II and has lived in Safed since 1950, received an anonymous phone call from someone threatening to burn down his home. He complained to police about the incident.

"I'm scared," he told Haaretz. "But I have an obligation toward these lovely students ... They're in school every day and needed a place to sleep at night."

He said that prior to the threatening call, several people whom he did not know showed up at his house and asked him not to rent to Arabs. He stressed, however, that the city's other old-timers back his decision.

A few months ago, Eliyahu and 17 other rabbis issued a public call to residents not to sell or rent apartments to non-Jews. That was followed by an "emergency convention" three weeks ago, at which speakers lashed out against the influx of Arab students.

Then, about 10 days ago, three Arab students were physically assaulted, one of whom was shot, though not fatally.

Two Safed residents - one of them an armed border policeman - were subsequently indicted for the attack, which began when a group of young Jews surrounded the students' apartment, shouting slogans such as "Death to the Arabs" and "Stinking Muslims" and hurling rocks and bottles through the windows. Some of the assailants apparently then climbed through an open window to continue the attack at close range.