I live in ‘Jaba, north-east of Jerusalem, I’ve served as the head of the village council for the past five years. We are surrounded by many settlements, which affect us negatively in terms of accessing our land and violence, which settlers sometimes use against us.
South-east of the village is the settlement Geva Binyamin. This is the settlement closest of us, it’s less than 500 meters away. North-east of the village is the settler’s industrial zone, Sha’ar Binyamin. North-west is the settlement Kochav Ya’akov. To the west is an army post and to the east is the Ramallah bypass road, which leads to all the settlements in the northern West Bank and to the city of Nablus.
There are three mosques in the village, the largest one is in the center of the village and is called Zid Bin Kharet. The mosque has two floors, and two entrances – one in the front and one in the back.
On June 19, 2012 at around 1:40 am, I was at home asleep. AA, one of the residents called me and told me the mosque was on fire. I asked him which mosque, and he said the big mosque in the center of the village. I immediately got dressed and went to the mosque, I got there within five minutes. There were already a lot of people from the village there, putting out the fire using a hose that is by the mosque. I didn’t see the fire because I arrived after people had controlled it, but there was a lot of smoke that covered the mosque, it was barely possible to see what was happening inside.
About half an hour later, it was a little easier to see the extent of the damage, and then I discovered slogans in Hebrew on the mosque walls. I don’t understand Hebrew, but the people who do read Hebrew managed to read the slogans and said they were racist slogans that apparently settlers sprayed – “The Ulpana war” and “Price tag”.
I think that settlers torched the mosque because of the upcoming evacuation in Beit El. They entered the mosque through the back door, the door was open, they broke one of the windows in the back and poured flammable liquid into the mosque. The fire began in the back by the window, carpets were burned and the walls turned black. It was a miracle that the entire mosque didn’t burn down, thanks to people who came quickly after seeing the smoke and controlled the fire.
The first to see the fire were people who live by the mosque but to the best of my knowledge, no one saw the settlers, they only saw the smoke. I’m guessing that the settlers parked their car on the bypass road and walked over to the village, it’s about four minutes on foot, did what they did and ran away quickly. I think it’s time that Israeli law enforcement agencies treated these offenders harshly, because they’ve crossed the line. Sha’ar Binyamin Police station is 300 meters away from the village, and yet they can’t find the perpetrators.
At 4 am, the Israeli DCO and police arrived and took my complaint. They photographed the damage and the writing on the mosque walls.