Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used his opening remarks at this week’s cabinet meeting in Jerusalem to speak against the stabbing of five American Jews during a Hanukka celebration in the U.S. state of New York.
“Israel strongly condemns the latest surge of anti-Semitism and the brutal attack in the middle of the Hanukkah holiday at the rabbi’s house in Monsey, New York,” said Prime Minister Netanyahu. “We send our wishes of recovery to the wounded,” he added, saying that Israel would “cooperate in every way with the local authorities to help eradicate this phenomenon,” assistance he said is offered to all countries around the world.
At the time of the rampage on Saturday (December 28), more than 100 people were reportedly gathered inside the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg to commemorate the seventh of the eight-night holiday. The Orthodox Jewish community is located in Rockland County, about 56 kilometers (35 miles) north of New York City near the state line with New Jersey. About a third of the population in the country is Jewish.
A lone assailant wearing a scarf over his face stormed the home while wielding a machete. Two of the victims were critically wounded, one of whom sustained six stab wounds and a severed finger. The rabbi’s son was among the other three who were also wounded. The assailant also reportedly tried to murder worshippers at a next door synagogue, but the house of worship was locked.
A suspect identified as Grafton Thomas was captured by police after he fled to Manhattan, still wearing his bloody clothes. The 37-year-old African American pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary during his arraignment yesterday, where bail was set at $5 million.
The savagery occurred amid an increase of assaults against Jews worldwide, including the United States. Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo said the incident was the 13th anti-Semitic attack in New York since December 8. Last month a local Jewish man was stabbed while walking to a synagogue. On December 10 a massacre at a kosher grocery store in nearby New Jersey that left three Jews and a police officer murdered, in addition to the two African American assailants during a shoot-out with law enforcement officials.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center has called on the FBI to create a special task force to combat assaults against Jews.
The Jewish holiday of Hanukkah commemorates the 2nd century B.C. victory of Judah Maccabee and his followers in a revolt against armies of the Seleucid Empire.
A statement issued an attorney on behalf of the suspect’s family said he had “a long history of mental illness and hospitalizations.” They also claimed, “He has no known history of anti-Semitism and was raised in a home which embraced and respected all religions and races” and wasn’t a member of any hate groups.” The family also expressed their “deepest concern and prayers for those injured physically and otherwise deeply affected,” and gratitude for “those who rendered medical attention to each of those injured.”
Despite his family’s protestations, Grafton was charged an addition crime today, of having committed a hate crime. This, after investigators found anti-Semitic materials on his phone and in his journals. The evidence included writings on Hitler, and research on Jewish targets collected by police in the home where Grafton lived with his mother in the rural village of Greenwood Lake, only 30 kilometers (20 miles) away from the massacre in Monsey.