Acre Braces for Yom Kippur, in Wake of Last Year's Riots

More than 300 policemen to be deployed in the city with roadblocks to be placed in central points.

Policemen and roadblocks are to be positioned in the main streets of Acre ahead of Yom Kippur, Haaretz learned on Thursday, after clashes between Jewish and Arab residents of the northern town erupted last year on the even of the Jewish High Holiday.

Last year's riots began after an Arab resident of the Old City of Acre drove his car into a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in eastern Acre, where he said he lived.

Jewish teens at the scene said the Arab man was deliberately making noise and smoking cigarettes. The teens attacked the man and shortly afterward, a group of Arab teens arrived at the scene, igniting a full-blown riot.

As a response, more than 300 uniformed and plain-clothed policemen will be dispersed throughout the city ahead of this year's holiday, with roadblocks to be placed in the city's entrances as well as in its main streets and near synagogues.

A top-ranking Galilee regional police officer said that the neighborhood which sparked last year's incidents will be completely sealed off, and vehicles will be prohibited from entering it from as soon as the eve of Yom Kippur.

"We know of many meetings between community leaders and clerics from both sides, as well as with police," the officer said, adding, however, that "there is no need to take unnecessary chances."

"We are deploying en masse in order to maintain public calm and to prevent any kind of disorder," the top officer added.

Police has held extensive meetings with representatives of both Jewish and Arab sectors in the city over the last few days in an attempt to ensure that Yom Kippur will be respected and unnecessary gatherings.

"Regardless of Yom Kippur, anyone any disruptive factor will be met with a firm and uncompromising response," Galilee police said.

The Acre city council had pointed out that the process of healing splintered relations began shortly after events, and that many get-togethers, including between students, had taken place since.

Earlier this week the city's Mosque of Jezzar Pasha hosted a meeting attended by the city's chief rabbi, Shimon Lankri, as well as Rabbi Yosef Yashar alongside Arab and Jewish representatives.

In addition, Jewish and Arab Acre residents have also initiated a joint charter ahead of Yom Kippur, which will be accepted by most of the city's residents and could open a path to civil peace and cooperation.

"Acre, who was able to assimilate many immigrants from many countries has prided itself in the years-long amiable relationship between the Arab and Jewish communities," the charter said.

The document also stated that Acre, "which had been blessed with natural assets, its beach and bay, as well as with a unique architectural tradition, and which had engraved its name into the history of the Mediterranean Basin, is finding it difficult to realize its gifts and is losing its stature in the eyes if its citizens."

Charter authors add they feared the "continued loss of Acre's prestige."