Jerusalem Protesters Decry Assault on Arab Mall Workers

About 100 people demonstrated yesterday near Jerusalem's Malha Mall against the assault by Beitar Jerusalem soccer fans on Arab workers at the mall last week.

The rally, sponsored by a coalition of social action groups, was protected by a large number of police. Nearby, five or six soccer fans staged a counter-demonstration, led by extreme right-wing activist Baruch Marzel.

Avi Meir, one of the organizers, told participants: "We came here to make a simple statement. That last week's ugly incident is not our way. Jerusalem belongs to all its residents - Jews and Arabs."

Akram, one of the mall workers who was attacked, said of reports on the incident: "Good that it was publicized. People in the world should know what happened here. What is not good for the Arabs is not good for the Jews."

The attack took place after Beitar fans streamed out of a match at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium, named after the city's longtime former mayor, Teddy Kollek. Osnat Kollek, the late mayor's daughter, said at yesterday's rally: "I want to apologize personally. My father was one of Theodor Herzl's disciples. He wanted Jerusalem to be a light to the gentiles, which would bear a spiritual message of peace and brotherhood. He worked for that all his life and would have unequivocably fought incidents like this. This must not go by the board. This is not Zionism," she said.

The veteran sports journalist Zohair Bahalul told the rally that their presence was "heartwarming," adding "sometimes I despair, but when I see the light in your eyes I have hope."

The director general of the Malha Mall was also present at the rally, as were the heads of the mall's security.

After the rally, the demonstrators went into the mall and handed out flowers and candy to the mall's workers, "so as to sweeten a little the sour taste of last week's events," Meir said.