The police arrested six members of a Jaffa family over the weekend in connection with the stabbing death of a leader of the city's Christian community.
Gabriel Cadis, 51, head of the city's Orthodox Church Association, was stabbed on Friday evening after a service at St. George's Church. Witnesses say the assailant was wearing a Santa Claus hat.
Police are investigating whether the killing was connected to a struggle over real estate assets belonging to the association.
Cadis, a father of four, was stabbed in the back at 6:30 P.M. on Greek Orthodox Christmas Eve as he was preparing to lead a parade from Louis Pasteur Street to Yefet Street in the center of town.
Relatives and friends near Cadis at the time of the attack said they only realized what had happened after he fell to the ground. They called the police and ambulance service, but after three minutes they took him to the hospital themselves. He died on the operating table at Wolfson Medical Center in Holon.
Cadis' death is a blow to the community, many of whose members saw him as key person to help solve the city's problems.
Police poured into the area after the stabbing, concerned that the murder was an ideological crime by a Jew or Muslim that could have sparked a riot.
Witnesses said the attacker was wearing a Santa Claus hat, although several people in the crowd were wearing such hats.
By a few hours after the murder, the police's Tel Aviv Central Unit, which is leading the investigation, had focused on a power struggle in the Orthodox Church Association as a motive. Six members of a Jaffa family were arrested later that night, including Cadis' rival for the chairmanship of the association.
Cadis took the rival to court a few months ago, seeking the eviction of a family due to what he said was their illegal occupation of apartments and other valuable real estate belonging to the association. The six arrested are from that family.
Associates of Cadis said his desire to see funds from the assets used for the community had brought him into conflict with his rivals.
"Now we only want one thing, and that's to bring the murderers to justice," said the victim's brother, George Cadis. "The police know how to do their work if they want to, and it's their obligation to bring them to trial."
Thousands of people followed Cadis' coffin on Saturday from his home near Jaffa's Andromeda luxury housing project to St. George's Church. Among them were Greek Orthodox Archbishop Atallah Hanna, members of the Greek Orthodox Scouts, Muslim clerics and Jewish friends and acquaintances.
Among the public figures at the funeral were District Court Judge George Kara, MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad ), Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Meital Lehavi and the commander of the Yarkon district police, Brig. Gen. Yoram Ohayon.
Cadis, from a very prominent Jaffa family, was a lawyer and ran an accounting firm. Last month he was elected for a second straight term as head of the Orthodox Church Association, a charitable body. His struggle over assets belonging to the association brought him into conflict more than once with the Orthodox church.
Cadis had taken the unusual step of participating Friday in the midday service at Jaffa's Pardes Abu Seif Mosque. Police had confiscated the mosque's loudspeaker system last week following complaints by neighbors, and Cadis attended the service in sympathy with the Muslim community.
According to a Jaffa resident and Tel Aviv City Council member, Ahmed Masharawi, at the end of the prayer service Cadis said: "Today it's amplifiers, tomorrow it will be church bells."
"We are in shock, this will affect all of our public activities," Masharawi said. "The man was a leader in public struggles and we're certain the murder is connected to those struggles."
Masharawi said Cadis was intelligent, educated, economically comfortable and could have simply focused on taking care of his family. But instead, "he devoted the better part of the last 15 years to the community and the public. In the end his family has lost him and it raises a lot of questions."
Another Tel Aviv City Council member, Sami Abu-Shehada, said Cadis "was killed on Christmas Eve on a main street in Jaffa, when hundreds of people were in the street. That says that these heinous criminals don't think there's a police force at all in the city. If there had at least been a sense of deterrence, this wouldn't have happened."
The secretary of the Orthodox Church Association in Jaffa, Peter Habash, said Cadis had received death threats, including some recently. Habash, who was a close friend of Cadis, said a stun grenade had been thrown at Cadis' house and his car had been damaged, but that the police had not taken the threats seriously.