Residents of the northern Israeli city of Akko remained on edge Friday after Arab provocation sparked interethnic riots over Yom Kippur that sent eight people seeking medical treatment. During the worst of the violence, some 50 people remained at the local Chabad-Lubavitch center after the holiday, reciting Psalms for their safety.

“I have never seen anything like this before,” said Moshe Algerbali, a 40-year resident of the coastal town who lives in a building next to where the riots began Wednesday night. “Windshields were shattered, as well as store windows throughout the city’s center.

“The world has been turned upside down here.”


According to media reports, initial police investigations point to an Arab man from Akko’s Old City as the instigator of the clashes. Galilee Police spokesman Eran Shaked told The Jerusalem Post that the man and two passengers drove through the predominantly Jewish Ben-Gurion neighborhood after the start of Yom Kippur – the holiest day of the year, which is marked by fasting and intense prayer – with his stereo “blaring music.” Local residents asked the man to leave, and the verbal confrontation quickly escalated.

In the meantime, “false rumors that Arabs were seriously harmed or killed by Jews reached the Old City, and caused a far more serious and organized incident in Acre.” Hundreds of Arab residents marched toward the Jewish neighborhood, smashing store windows and cars along the way before police subdued the clashes. But residents again took to the streets after the close of the holiday; the authorities responded to the renewed violence by locking down the city and telling people to remain indoors.

On Thursday night, Akko’s main street was littered with shattered glass.
On Thursday night, Akko’s main street was littered with shattered glass.

The 50 people at the Chabad House were eating their traditional festive break-fast meal when the lockdown began. The congregants, among them very young children, could not return to their homes until after midnight.

“In the 30 years that I’ve been here, I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Rabbi Natan Oirechman, director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Akko. “To vandalize hundreds of cars and stores? This is not a simple case youth run amok.”

Lilach Cohen, 35, said that as she walked to synagogue Thursday morning, the main street looked like a war zone.

“Hundreds of cars were damaged,” said the mother of five. “The tires were cut, and glass was strewn everywhere.”

“This shouldn’t have happened,” said Yehudit Ochana, a mother of three who was kept awake both nights by the sounds of the riots.

“Today is very tense,” added Cohen. “Something has to be done.”