Third Arsonist of Jerusalem Bilingual School Sentenced to Three Years in Prison

Yitzhak Gabbay refused a July plea deal signed by Lehava activists.

Yitzhak Gabbay and his lawyer, Itamar Ben-Gvir, speak at the Jerusalem District Court on Dec. 1, 2015.
Olivier Fitoussi

Yitzhak Gabbay, the third man found guilty in the torching of a Hebrew-Arabic bilingual school in Jerusalem, was sentenced by the Jerusalem District Court to three years in prison on Tuesday.

He had refused to sign a plea bargain in which the other men accused in the case, the Lehava-activist Twito brothers, confessed to the arson attack and were sentenced to prison.

The bilingual school, situated in Jerusalem's Pat neighborhood, was torched last November by the Lehava activists. The torching was carried out at night and no one was wounded in the incident, but one of the classrooms was badly damaged. Prior to the arson attack, the school suffered from harassment at the hands of far-right activists for months, and was sprayed with "Death to Arabs" graffiti. 

Justice Zvi Segal wrote in his ruling that the arson attack was carried out against the background of terror attacks that plagued the city, "while the ground was burning – literally – and with the aim of committing an act that would create a media fanfare." This is why the torching of the school also constitutes "a blow to the values of human dignity, equality and tolerance," he added.

In July, the Jerusalem District Court sentenced Nahman Twito, 18, 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.

As part of the plea bargain, charges of breaking and entering into the school were removed, and Nahman was not charged with incitement over a Facebook post published before the arson took place. State prosecution had requested that the brothers be sentenced to four to seven years in prison.