This July, a client of our Kfar Saba Employment Services Center, was brutally attacked at his neighborhood grocery store. The incident, which was covered in all major Israeli news outlets, started with an 11-year-old boy taunting 40-year-old Tzvika Sodri, who has Downs Syndrome, with offensive and humiliating remarks.
Sodri responded to the insults by asking the boy to stay away from him. When Sodri left the small grocery store, the boy’s mother, Maayan Tarshi, approached him and tried to attack him. A barber from a nearby shop, who knew Sodri, came out and shielded him from the mother. Shortly afterwards, the boy’s father, Uriel Tarshi age 37, arrived on the scene and began violently attacking Sodri, punching him in the body and face.
Security cameras caught the father chasing Sodri back into the small grocery store and punching him through the aisles. The frightened Sodri ran behind the checkout counter, seeking refuge behind the store owner. Tarshi wrestled the shielding grocer from Sodri, then repeatedly hit and even head-butted Sodri. The grocer was finally able to successfully pull Tarshi off of Sodri and forcefully usher him out of the store.
The shocked and bruised Sodri was taken to Meir Hospital, treated, and released to his home. A day later, he filed a complaint at the Kfar Saba police station. After a police interrogation, Tarshi was put under house arrest with restrictive conditions.
Since the attack, there has been a community and country-wide outpouring of love and support toward Sodri, who was both physically hurt and mentally traumatized by the incident. Mayor Rafi Sa’ar who has known Sodri since they were children, made a surprise visit to him during his workday at the Chimes Israel Kfar Saba Center. In addition, the Kfar Saba city buses put huge stickers on their buses with Sodri’s picture and the words in Hebrew, “Tzvika, we love you!”
“Since I saw the shocking photos that revealed Tzvika’s unimaginable attack, I can’t relax,” said Kfar Saba Mayor Rafi Sa’ar. “I also cannot understand how someone can brutally attack and hurt a person who is all good. I hugged him and told him that this hug is not only from me, but from all of our wonderful townspeople. There is no place in any society and certainly not in our city for such violence.”
The pop star Noa Kirel, who was recently chosen to represent Israel in the upcoming Eurovision Song contest, uploaded a photo of her with Sodri to Instagram, in which she shared the details of the incident, and her shock. “I can’t believe that things like this happen. In this case, it is our Tzvika, whom my family has been hosting on Fridays for several years. I couldn’t believe what I saw! I can’t imagine his fear in this situation. How can you raise a hand at a person with special needs? How?”
Less than a week after the incident, a local Kfar Saba flower and plant nursery, Mashtelat Sapir, invited the public to their nursery for “A night of support and love for Tzvika Sodri.” The owners, Galit and Gabi Sapir, who have a child with disabilities, decided that although they didn’t know Sodri, it was important to lift his spirits with hugs from the community, and send a clear message against bullying.
Over 300 people came to the event, which had a live music, speeches and food, with many local businesses donating their goods and services. When Sodri entered the nursery with shining eyes, he asked in amazement: “WHAT?! All this is for me!?” He received hundreds of hugs, including from the Kfar Saba mayor again and his wife Meital.
A featured guest was Lihi Lapid, Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s wife. “As Yaeli’s mother, a young woman with deep autism, I know how important the task is of accepting differences,” said Lapid. “How important it is as a society that we are patient and tolerant of those who are not like us.” She also said of the event, “Many residents of Kfar Saba surrounded him and strengthened him. There were a lot of tears. Of sorrow and pain for this to happen, and of joy that there are many more good people than bad people. Small light triumphs over great darkness. The evening was a great light.”
With the security camera footage of the violence made public, there have been calls on social media for the boycott of Tarshi’s business – an event space called “Badolina” in Ra’anana. As a result, hundreds of people have given the event hall a low rating on Google. One of the reviews read, “Shame and shame, to hit a person with Down syndrome.”