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Palestinian who converted to Judaism shot dead by Israeli soldier in West Bank

David Ben Avraham, 63, was searched and then gunned down by an Israeli reservist near an illegal settlement
David Ben Avraham, 63, who was born Sameh Zeitoun, was killed on 21 March 2024 by an Israeli reservist (Screengrab/X)

A Palestinian man who had converted to Judaism was shot dead by an Israeli reservist near an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank. 

David Ben Avraham, 63, who was born Sameh Zeitoun, was shot dead on Thursday morning after being searched by soldiers, who found a knife in his bag, according to Israel's Ynet News

The knife was reportedly for self-defence purposes, and there was no suggestion he had used it to attack anyone at the time he was killed. The Israeli army said it was investigating the killing. 

The incident took place at a bus stop near the Elazar settlement, one of a cluster of illegal settlements known as the Gush Etzion, south of Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. 

Ben Avraham reportedly converted to Judaism in honour of his grandfather, who had saved 25 Jews during the 1929 riots in Hebron.

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Ben Avraham tried several times to begin the process of conversion, but was denied by Israeli authorities, according to Ynet. He was eventually accepted on to a programme in the Israeli city of Bnei Brak. 

After a long process, he converted and changed his name. 

Arrested and attacked

Ben Avraham said he was arrested and held in Hebron for 58 days in late 2019 by the Palestinian Authority. 

"They put me in the government building in Hebron with other people and the guards told everyone that I had converted and that I was Jewish," he said at the time, Ynet reported. "Every time inmates attacked me, strangled me and beat me very hard."

He said that Palestinian religious figures attempted to convince him to retract his conversion, but he declined. 

Ben Avraham sought to become an Israeli citizen following his conversion, but was repeatedly denied and ignored by authorities, according to Noam Arnon, a spokesperson for illegal Israeli settlements in Hebron. 

"Jewish friends... strove for him, supported him financially, and tried to help him stabilise his life, but to no avail. He lived between two worlds: the Muslim world that abused him, and the state of Israel that turned its back on him," Arnon said on Thursday. 

Over 350 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank by Israeli forces or settlers since the war on Gaza broke out on 7 October. 

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