Israeli Convert to Islam Held on Suspicion of Seeking to Join ISIS in Syria

Belarus-born father of five said to have bought one-way ticket to Turkey, planning to cross to Syria, Shin Bet says.

A Belarus-born Israeli man has been arrested last month for allegedly trying to  join the ranks of Islamic State in Syria, the Shin Bet security service said Wednesday.

Valentin Vladimir Mazalewski, a 40-year-old father of five from the town of Shibli in northern Israel, allegedly bought a one-way ticket to Turkey, planning to cross the border to Syria and join the jihadist group, the Shin Bet said.

Valentin Vladimir Mazalevsky.
Shin Bet

Mazalewski immigrated to Israel from Belarus in 1996. According to the Shin Bet, he converted to Islam in 2000 after meeting his current spouse, an Israeli Arab from Shibli, during his army service.

The Shin Bet said that Mazalewski was active in online forums of ISIS supporters, where he expressed his intentions of leaving for Syria and attempted to coordinate his arrival with members of the group. 

This week, Haaretz reported that the number of Arabs jailed in Israel for activity inspired by radical jihadist movements soared by almost 600 percent over the last year. Eighty-three people have been detained, up from just 12 at the end of 2015.

The detainees, who include both Israeli citizens and Palestinians, have been influenced mainly by either the Islamic State group or Al-Qaida.

Over the past three months, the Shin Bet security service has announced a long list of arrests of those suspected of jihadist activity. They include three residents of Taibeh, arrested last September on suspicion of activity inspired by Islamic State (two also allegedly planned to join the organization’s ranks in Syria); a couple from the Galilee town of Sakhnin, arrested that same month after returning from Iraq where they had joined Islamic State; a resident of Jaljulya who was arrested last November for expressing support for Islamic State, buying a submachine gun and a pistol, and planning to go to Syria; and a Taibeh resident arrested last month for swearing allegiance to Islamic State, learning how to make bombs and, according to the Shin Bet, planning to blow up a bus in Tel Aviv.

The majority of those arrested, including all the examples above, are Israeli Arabs rather than Palestinians from the West Bank. In most cases, they were arrested either because they were in internet contact with Islamic State activists overseas, or because they were planning terror attacks.

Others were arrested when they tried to go to Iraq or Syria to fight with Islamic State and, in a few cases, people were arrested upon returning from those countries.