(JTA) — She thought she was attacking an “Israel school” on behalf of “her people back in Palestine.” Instead an Indiana woman backed her car into a building being used by a group that uses Jewish symbols while often engaging in antisemitic harassment.
That’s according to local news reports and Jewish leaders in Indianapolis, after police arrested Ruba Almaghtheh, 34, Saturday for her attack on a building belonging to a Hebrew Israelite sect, a Black nationalist group.
The police report said she admitted she had intentionally backed her car into a building labeled “Israelite School of Universal and Practical Knowledge,” which has a logo of a distorted Star of David on the front, and announced she did it for “her people back in Palestine” after watching news coverage of the war. There were children inside the building at the time; police labeled Almaghtheh a “terrorist” and leveled a preliminary charge of criminal recklessness.
The local Jewish federation issued a security alert for its community in the wake of the incident on Saturday.
“Although a Jewish facility was not targeted, solely due to ironic misidentification, this is yet another reminder to maintain security protocols, remain vigilant of suspicious activity and to report same promptly to the appropriate authorities,” said the statement signed by leaders of the federation and the local Jewish community relations council.
The incident adds to a growing list of planned or actual attacks on Jews amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war and spiking antisemitism that has accompanied it. In the United States, people have been arrested in recent weeks for breaking into Jewish homes and directing antisemitic threats at Jewish organizations, Jewish politicians and Jewish college students, while Jews in France have also been attacked and an antisemitic mob recently swarmed an airport in Russia’s Dagestan region.
Following Almaghtheh’s arrest, the local Jewish federation, Jewish Community Relations Council and its security advisory group, Safe Indiana, alerted the local Jewish community to the incident. The groups stated that the “threat level” for Jewish safety in the area “has not increased,” even as it appeared Almaghtheh had meant to target a Jewish building.
The Israelite School of Universal and Practical Knowledge is one of a number of Hebrew Israelite sects condemned as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center and Anti-Defamation League because of their tactics and rhetoric, which includes claiming that Black people are the only “true” Jews. (Not all Hebrew Israelite sects employ those tactics and rhetoric, and some Hebrew Israelites collaborate with Jewish communities. The ADL is careful to distinguish the sects from actual Jews of color.)
Almaghtheh is expected in court on Wednesday. Local police have alerted the FBI to the incident. Requests for comment to the Safe Indiana regional security advisor were not returned.