The gate of the Al-Houda high school in Ramle was padlocked on Sunday. While the sounds of children playing soccer could be heard from the adjacent elementary school, the high school had already closed for summer vacation; it opens a couple of days a week for extra help and enrichment classes that are given during the summer. Riyan Jarushi, 16, a 10th grader, hadn’t been in the building for more than a month.
Riyan was also absent from her online classes. Her teachers noticed that she wasn't connecting to the Zoom classes, but no one was able to reach her or her parents, Nawal and Yousef Jarushi, to find out why. Finally, after four days, they managed to reach Nawal, who explained that the family had left Ramle, but refused to say where they had gone.
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On Saturday, near the Eilabun junction in the Galilee, Riyan was murdered along with her parents in a drive-by shooting. The school was aware of the family feud that had split the Jarushi family, but Riyan, the mother said, would be fine. “It’s hard to accept that this is the result of that dispute,” school officials told Haaretz.
Riyan hadn’t been an outstanding student, but she made an effort. This year she had started to major in chemistry and biology and got good grades. “She was a pleasant girl, talented and friendly, with light in her eyes and a great smile,” was the way parents and teachers in the school described her. “This is a terrible tragedy that has caused us great pain,” said one of the teachers. “It’s hard to accept this, it’s simply heartbreaking.”
The school is preparing to provide support to the school’s students, and particularly to Riyan’s classmates. “The homeroom teacher called all the kids Saturday and told them what had happened,” said a school official. “We aren’t getting into the details of the Jarushi family feud. It’s not our place. But we will do everything to provide a proper and professional response to their feelings.”
‘Who does such a thing?’
Very few people are prepared to get into the details of the feud within the Jarushi family. One of the strongest crime families in Israel, it owns numerous businesses in Israel and abroad alongside its criminal activity, which includes drug trafficking, gambling parlors and protection rackets.
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“I hear nothing and I don’t know. Leave me alone about that,” says a storeowner in the Ramle market, where Yousef Jarushi had worked as a night watchman for the past 20 years. At the heart of the feud is a struggle for control of the family between Yousef’s brother, Zayed, and his cousins, Hatam and Amir.
A month ago, in the disturbances within Israel that took place during the military confronation between Israel and Hamas, Hatam was stabbed to death. It was clear to everyone who was behind that murder. The killing of the Jarushis and their daughter was apparently a revenge attack.
Zayed Jarushi, who moves all over the country, including the Palestinian Authority, evaded an assassination attempt in 2019 in Ramallah and continues to live in hiding. Yousef, police said, was apparently a more accessible target, even though he isn’t connected to the family leadership struggle.
“Look, this is disgusting,” said someone in the Ramle market who had known Yousef and his family for years. “You want to kill him, kill him. But to murder his wife and daughter, who does such a thing?” He, like others in the market, said Yousef had not been a “big criminal.”
“For years he’d been involved in the drug trade and served time in prison for that,” he said. “Since he was released around seven years ago, he changed. He started to go to the mosque. He became religious. He calmed down, you could say.”
Carmel Shvo, chairman of the market committee, who was Yousef’s employer, confirmed this. “This is a very difficult morning, I didn’t sleep all night,” he told Haaretz. “He worked for me for 20 years. I rehabilitated him. He built himself a nice house, he got a driver’s license, he was really a nice guy.”
Shvo says that Yousef began working in the market after cases of vandalism and theft led to a demand for night security. “One of the merchants suggested that I hire him; the police and the mayor approved it,” he recalls. “And indeed, it brought quiet to the market.” He agrees that the very presence of a Jarushi family member in the market was enough to assure security.
Now it seems that things have changed. “A month ago I told him, ‘Given what’s happened, you can’t continue,’” said Shvo. Like many others in the city, he knew that the murder of Hatam Jarushi would lead to a revenge attack on someone related to Zayed Jarushi, such as Yousef. “I told him that what had happened could do the market harm, and that I had to protect the market,” Shvo said. “I told him explicitly that he couldn’t work here anymore. He took it well and he left.” He said Jarushi’s dismissal was coordinated with and had the approval of the police.
Another merchant wasn’t sad to see him go. “Every store paid him 130 shekels ($40) a month, and he came to guard maybe once a week,” she said. “It was an organization tax. Once I said to him, ‘Tell me, what am I paying you for?’ and he answered, ‘Just give me the money.’ It wasn’t terrible that he left.”
Tense future for Ramle market
The murder undercut efforts to effect a reconciliation in the market, which was particularly tense during the disturbances last month in mixed Jewish-Arab cities during the Gaza hostilities. While most people were reluctant to talk to a journalist about the murders, in the market, it’s what everyone is talking about, said one of the merchants.
“This market lives in peace and love with all the religions and communities,” Shvo said. “Unfortunately, during the riots, people from outside Ramle came, young people. They hurt the city and especially the market. People were afraid to open their stores, and customers were afraid to come. I’m happy that it has calmed down since.” Shvo categorically denies the claim made by one shop owner that Arabs were boycotting Jewish merchants.
For whatever reason, there were few Arabs in the market on Sunday, following the weekend shooting. “The Arab guys from Juarish [the neighborhood where much of the Jarushi family lives] won’t come the entire week,” said one merchant. “Unlike the Jews, they don’t go to the mall. This is their mall and they have enormous purchasing power, so it’s very much felt.”
Another merchant said that the crisis that has hit the market is likely to continue. “You know, after this murder, there can be the next murder, and then another one,” he said. “The problem is that this time they also harmed the wife and child. They crossed a red line. Who knows what will happen next time?”
Someone who knows the family well said that the entire Jarushi family “is experiencing one of the most difficult periods ever. They’re divided and feuding, spread all over the country and are dying from fear of one another. Nephews are knocking on the doors of their aunts and threatening them, after they’d practically grown up in their homes.”
A short time after the shooting deaths in the Galilee, the investigation was transferred to the police’s Central District unit, given where the family had lived, and a gag order was placed on the probe. A source very familiar with goings-on in Ramle believes that by the time the details are clarified, there could be other murders as a result of this feud. “The police are still investigating who murdered Hatam a month ago, and this time I would imagine it will also take time,” he said.
“Meanwhile, there will be other murders. No doubt about it. Revenge could come in an hour, a day or a month, but it will come. The only question is when.”