Police have raised doubts whether two Orthodox men were the intended targets of a burning bottle that landed at their feet in Manhattan this past Friday afternoon. Nobody was injured and the perpetrator could not be identified.
“When my brother first told me about the bomb, I could hear that he was very frightened,” Menachem Rachimi, Yosef’s brother, told Hamodia. “I myself returned to the scene and saw the broken glass and where the fire had burned.”
Initial reports assumed that Gadasi and Rachimi were the intended targets. However, police said after speaking to several eyewitnesses that it was more likely that the flaming bottle was connected to a fight that occurred earlier involving a food vendor in the same location.
“It looks like an individual got into some sort of dispute with a manager at a food cart storage facility, came back, and threw a bottle containing a combustible substance,” Police Spokesman Sgt. Lee Jones said in an interview with the Gothamist. “Yeshivah students were in the vicinity as well as the Muslim person who was the manager at the food storage facility.”
Yosef Rachimi and Yisroel Gadasi are both natives of Eretz Yisrael and have been studying at a Lubavitch Yeshiva in Crown Heights. They regularly visit the area where the incident occurred to encourage secular Jews to put on tefillin.
The two were standing on 37th Street near Ninth Avenue when Yosef felt an intense rush of heat. They looked down to discover the remains of an exploded “Molotov cocktail,” a bottle filled with flammable liquid and a lighted wick. The burning object had rolled into and damaged a bicycle, but completely missed Rachimi and Gadasi.
Several passersby helped to extinguish the fire and clean up the area. The damaged bicycle, which had been chained to a lamppost, was removed from the scene.
The two students did not see who threw the bottle.
However, many remained unconvinced that the incendiary was not aimed at Rachimi and Gadasi.
“In the background of Jews being butchered in the streets of Jerusalem, it’s understandable that we’d be deeply concerned over the incident,” Yaakov Behrman, who has been acting as a liaison between the two men and the city, told Hamodia. “Until the perpetrator is arrested and interrogated, it’s impossible to confirm or definitively rule out whether Yisroel and Yosef were the target. But we trust the police to clarify the matter and we trust their conclusions.”