Guy and Shlomi Salma, brothers and former policemen from Or Akiva, arrived on the evening of May 12 at a gas station just outside the town. Guy said the idea was to establish a presence there in response to reports of Arabs in the area rioting. “We genuinely came there to defend the town,” he said.
But when the two arrived, they found an angry Jewish mob. “Suddenly, I’m hearing, ‘An Arab, an Arab,’” Guy recalled. “I saw an Arab coming on foot alone and approaching the mob. It was clear he was innocent, not connected with the situation at all.”
The Arab was A., a young resident of the nearby town of Jisr al-Zarqa, who was beaten and stabbed by some 20 people with clubs, Israeli flags and knives. Guy and Shlomi defended A. with their bodies, escorted him away from the mob and stayed with him until an ambulance arrived.
It wasn’t the only such attack that evening, but the case of A. was unusual because Jews intervened to help him.
“We were standing off on the side and saw that the mob was running toward someone. We didn’t know who he was, but very quickly realized that he was an innocent bystander,” said Shlomi. “There was no reason to attack him. Immediately, we ran over to rescue him, all the while, we were hit and cursed” by the mob.
A video of the incident shows Guy standing over A., who is injured and lying on the ground, as Shlomi tries to keep the attackers at bay. After a few seconds, the police start throwing stun grenades, causing the mob to disperse, but also injuring the brothers. Shlomi sustained a leg injury and Guy an injury to his forehead.
Warning: This video contains graphic footage and may be upsetting to some viewers.
“The police did not help us – they shouted at us, but we protected him until the ambulance arrived,” said Shlomi. “I’m angry at whoever the commander was on the scene for using stun grenades.”
The two said that the mob grew angry at them for defending A. “They shouted at us, ‘Leftists. What are you protecting him for? He’s an Arab.’ But Guy took care of him, and I made sure that whole time that they couldn’t get near him,” Shlomi recalled. “I’m definitely not a leftist, but you don’t hurt a person who hasn’t hurt you. A person is a person.”
Guy added that by assisting A. he felt that he had also helped the Jews who were there. “I believe that I saved these young people who had attacked him from being sent to prison for murder. I saved them, too. One more stabbing and the man would have died.”
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Nevertheless, Guy said he believes that the young men “had come with good intentions, to protect the town, but ended up getting caught up in the situation.”
After the incident, he himself went to the hospital to see A. again. “He cried to me,” Guy said. “He told me I had saved his life. From my perspective, I did what I needed to do and my conscience is clear.”
According to the police, A. was hospitalized in serious condition with head injuries, and was released after several days after his condition improved.
Shlomi said that so far the police have not made contact with him. Guy said that investigators had reached out to him for his testimony and for his help to identify the attackers. But he said he had no intention of cooperating.
“First of all because I won’t recognize anyone and, secondly, I did what I did, and I don’t need to get any credit for it,” Guy explained.
But, he added, he also fears what might happen if he did identify any of the attackers. “I don’t intend to give more than that – they can do the work themselves. If I testify against anyone, I could end up in a feud with people in town. The police only want your evidence; after that, they don’t care about you,” he explained.
On Wednesday, the only person arrested to date for his involvement in the attack was indicted. Roman Levitan, age 34 from Hadera, was charged with an aggravated act of terror and unlawful possession of a knife – crimes punishable by up to 25 years in prison. The indictment alleges that Levitan beat A. on the head with a rod, out of “nationalistic-ideological motives.”
According to the indictment, about 20 rioters spotted the young Arab man as he passed by and attacked him as a group. However, except for Levitan, no other suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident.
As for Levitan, he told police that “while I was fighting with a rod there, if I did hit that kid, it wasn’t because I was aiming at him. It happened because everything was chaotic, not because he was an Arab or something like that.”
The police’s version of that evening differs from the brothers’ account. “Police and Border Police were responding to and coping with a multitude of arenas to provide an optimal response to incidents happening in so many places,” the Israel Police said in a statement.
“In stark contrast to what is being alleged, the police arrived at the scene immediately after they saw that an attack was occurring and protected the victim until an ambulance arrived. During the attack, police officers arrested several of those involved, including one suspect who attacked with a crowbar and a knife. Police action prevented further incidents and harm to passersby.”