May 12, 2021 - World

Jerusalem crisis widens rift between Jewish and Arab Israelis

A rabbi inside a torched religious school in Lod. Photo: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP via Getty

The crisis in Jerusalem and Gaza is fueling hostility and fear between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel.

Why it matters: This week has seen the worst inter-communal violence in Israel since the start of the Second Intifada in 2000.

The state of play: Demonstrations organized by Israeli Arabs to show solidarity with the Palestinians set to be evicted from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem — and in response to the raid by Israeli security forces on Monday at the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem — escalated into riots in cities and towns across Israel on Monday.

  • The most violent riots came in mixed cities where Jews and Arabs live together.

Driving the news: The most serious incident took place in the city of Lod near Tel Aviv, where an Arab Israeli citizen was shot dead by a Jewish Israeli, who was later arrested by the police.

  • That led to widespread riots in the city. Synagogues and cars were set on fire, and several Jewish residents were attacked. The government declared a state of emergency on Tuesday night and sent in border patrol forces to restore order.
  • Riots also took place in the historic city of Acre where cars, restaurants and hotels owned by Jews were torched.
  • In the city of Ramla, radical right-wing Jews attacked Arabs and set a Muslim cemetery on fire.

Worth noting: The riots took place at a time when Arab political parties have the most influence over Israeli politics since the founding of the country, and after what was seen as a renaissance in Jewish-Arab relations during the COVID-19 crisis.

What to watch: Many in Israel's Arab minority hope that the celebrations of Eid al-Fitr starting on Thursday to mark the end of Ramadan will help cool down the situation.

Go deeper