A number of municipalities in Israel ordered the construction and gardening work at its schools – work largely undertaken by Arab and West Bank Palestinian laborers – be suspended, in light of the terror attack in Bnei Brak Tuesday that left five people dead.
Ramat Gan Mayor Carmel Shama-HaCohen said he had asked building contractors working in the city to cease work at construction sites that “rely on Arab labor.” Netanya, Ramle, Holon and Givatayim announced that they had suspended all construction and gardening work, which is done mostly by Arab workers, at all public schools. Rishon Letzion ordered that such work be limited to after-school hours.
In addition, the army has banned the entry of Palestinian workers to settlements as of Wednesday.
Shama-HaCohen wrote on Facebook that he would penalize contractors who ignored his appeal. “When they make requests of us, they will be treated accordingly and learn to regret selfish decisions they made today, thinking only about their wallets and ignoring the city and its residents,” he said, adding that he would be patrolling between the city's schools armed with a pistol.
The Renovation Contractors Association trade group said that immediately after the terror attack, its members began receiving calls from customers asking them not to send Arab workers to their homes. For their part, Palestinian workers have expressed fears of revenge attacks.
“We’re getting it from all sides. People are asking us not to bring Palestinian workers into their homes, and there are Palestinian workers who say they don’t want to come out of fear for their lives,” the organization said in a statement. “A lot of workers are not showing up, and a lot of customers are afraid of the workers.”
Security in schools all over Israel has been stepped up after the attacks; some canceled school trips and other educational outings that had been planned for the next several days. Be’er Yaacov had already taken that step on Monday. After the Tuesday attack, others followed its lead, among them Rishon Letzion, Modi’in, Ramle and Kiryat Malakhi.
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Modi’in announced that it was ramping up security at schools and nursery schools throughout the city, particularly those near construction sites. Givatayim, Holon, Nes Tziona, Ramle and Lod announced that they were expanding the number of security patrols.
The National Committee of Nursery School Parents called on the government to provide security at the institutions, since most of these facilities have no guards at all. Several local authorities, among them Ramle, announced that they would deploy guards at all nursery schools. Tel Aviv and Hadera said security patrols would add nursery schools to their routes.
'Jewish blood is not cheap'
Meanwhile, police suspect hate crimes targeting Palestinians in several West Bank locales in response to Tuesday's attack.
About 170 olive trees were cut down overnight close to the Palestinian village of Luban e-Sharkiya. In addition, a vehicle was reportedly torched Wednesday morning and buildings were spray painted in the village of Asira al-Qibliya near Nablus with slogans reading, “Jews awaken” and “Jewish blood is not cheap.”
Yaaqoub Eweis, the mayor of Luban e-Sharkiya and a landowner, told Haaretz that the trees were planted 12 years ago. He said Israeli police arrived Wednesday morning, as did officials from the Palestinian Agriculture Ministry, to investigate the affair.
Ahmad Hamdan Umdeif, an Asira al-Qibliya resident whose car was torched, said that at about 1:30 A.M. Wednesday he heard noises outside his home, which is located on the western side of the village, relatively close to the settlement of Yizhar. He said that he went outside where he encountered two people outside his home who called themselves settlers and proceeded to torch the front of his car and then approach the entrance to his home.
“I started to shout,” he said. “I live in a relatively isolated area – there are only three other houses near me. I was scared that they would torch the house with my wife, three children and me inside. Some neighbors arrived, who got the fire under control …. I was very lucky that my dog began barking when he detected the two settlers. I saw two of them, but it could be that there were more. All my thoughts now are about what would have happened if I hadn't woken up,” he said.