Jerusalem Bilingual School Arsonists Given Heavy Sentences

Nahman and Shlomo Twito sentenced to 30 and 24 months in prison, 25,000 shekels in fines; brothers say crime was 'worth the price,' burst into song after court session.

Emil Salman

Two brothers convicted of torching the Hebrew-Arabic bilingual school in Jerusalem last November were given heavy sentences on Wednesday, after they confessed to the charges as part of a plea bargain.

Emil Salman

Nahman Twito, 18, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and 10 months on probation, as well as a 15,000 shekels fine to be paid to the school. His brother, Shlomo, 20, was sentenced to 24 months in prison, eight months on probation and a 10,000 shekels fine. 

Following the court session, the brothers, who are both activists in the radical right group Lehava, said the deed was "worth the price" and burst into song. The trial of the third suspect, Yitzhak Gabbay, is still underway.

The plea bargain between the District Prosecutor's Office and the brothers removed the charges of breaking and entering into the school, and Nahman was not charged with incitement over a Facebook post published before the arson took place.

However, the sides could not reach an agreement over the sentence, and the District Prosecutor's Office asked the court for a sentence of between four and seven years.

"The 'normal' severity of the charge of arson is exacerbated by the accused's ideological motive the accused's decision to torch the school was due to the fact that Jews and Arabs study there together, and as part of the accused's activity against coexistence between Jews and Arabs," Judge Zvi Segal of the Jerusalem District Court wrote in his verdict.  

"Their actions were perpetrated against the backdrop of attacks in the city of Jerusalem, when the ground was burning, and out of the intention to create a media impact the torching and the defacement of the school against said background show, in addition to the damage to the values of the public peace and security, its private and public property, also harm to the values of human dignity, equality and tolerance," the judge added.

Judge Segal also noted as mitigating circumstances the fact that the accused cooperated with their investigators and confessed to the charges, and also mentioned their harsh upbringing.

On November 28, 2014, the kindergarten in the Max Rayne Hand in Hand Jerusalem School was torched and defaced with graffiti reading "Kahane was right," "End the assimilation," "No coexistence with cancer." There were no casualties, but heavy damage was caused to a classroom.

The Twito brothers and Gabbay were arrested ten days later.

The school is the country's largest Jewish-Arab institution. It has been co-run by a Jewish and an Arab principal since its founding in 1998 by the Hand in Hand non-governmental organization.

The torching in November was the latest in a string of vandalistic attacks against the school, which was repeatedly sprayed with racist graffiti against Arabs.