Despite the arrest of a local Arab man for repeat Molotov cocktail attacks on the eastern Jerusalem Jewish neighborhood of Maale HaZeitim, assaults on the residential area just across from the Old City of Jerusalem continue, with two offenses occurring in the last 72 hours.
On Friday night, as residents of Maale HaZeitim gathered in their synagogue to commemorate the Sabbath, a series of fireworks were aimed and fired at the buildings, exploding loudly and catching grass on the perimeter of the neighborhood on fire.
After a quick consultation with the synagogue’s rabbi to determine the permissibility of calling the fire department to extinguish the flames on Shabbat, a resident dialed the emergency number for Jerusalem’s fire department. According to the resident who placed the call, no one answered the service number. Hanging up and trying again thereafter, the phone was answered immediately by a fire department representative, who sent a fire truck to the scene.
Residents of Maale HaZeitim told the Jewish Press that the fire truck took approximately 15 minutes to arrive. By then, the fire had consumed the perimeter grass and extinguished itself. Fire fighters surveyed the scene, made a report, and left the neighborhood. The perpetrator has not been apprehended.
The Friday night attack was followed by one in the afternoon on Sunday, on the opposite side of the community. According to reports by residents of one of the buildings, a bottle of brown oil-based paint was hurled at the homes around 3:30pm, the 20th such attack in the last few months. The balcony of an empty apartment in Maale HaZeitim’s “Building 5” shows splatterings of multiple colors of paint accumulated over the course of several attacks, as well as shards of broken glass from the bottles in which the paint was poured.
Though Maale HaZeitim is under the protection of the Jerusalem Police department like all other Jerusalem neighborhoods, the city also employs a special guard service to provide protection onsite 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Despite this, attacks against the community continue, with residents expressing concern that the guards do not respond quickly to attacks. One resident told the Jewish Press that a guard apologized to her for failing to respond to a firebomb attack on her apartment because he had concentrated on studying for his college entrance exams and simply failed to see the assault take place. Other residents stated that guards are afraid to respond to attacks, for fear of being incriminated by police, treated unjustly in the judicial system, and serving time in jail for defending Jewish residents.
A Jerusalem police officer, on condition of anonymity, told the Jewish Press that guards often fail to alert local law enforcement immediately when an attack occurs, weakening the potential for a successful police response. However, on April 30, a coordinated effort by the police, border police, and the local guards resulted in the apprehension of a man who admitted to conducting multiple firebomb attacks on the community.
Maale HaZeitim mothers have expressed concern and outrage that many of their small children have grown fearful of Arabs as a result of recent attacks, and demanded protection from the city and state, as afforded to them by right as citizens of Israel and Jerusalem.