Hollywood, FL - The third suspicious fire in less than two years broke out in a shopping plaza in a predominantly Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Hollywood early Sunday, causing fire officials to question whether anti-Semitic motives may be in play.
The SUN SENTINEL reports that the fire gutted two adjacent restaurants, Achla Pita Grill and Bon Ami Café, within the Emerald Center located at 5650 Stirling Road in Hollywood.
Both restaurants are owned by Ilan Timianski, and it was the second time Achla Pita Grill has been targeted within the past year.
In September of 2012, video surveillance footage showed two masked men wearing hoodies dispensing flammable liquids inside the Achla Pita Grill kitchen before setting it ablaze.
Hollywood Fire Rescue Division Chief Joel Medina expressed some concern over the possibility that anti-Semitic motives may be behind the string of arsons.
“We have some concerns,” Medina said. “We want to make sure we cover all the bases.”
Local businessman Michael Katz, who was forced to relocate his Judacia store to another spot in the plaza after it was gutted in a December fire last year, said two men were also caught on tape exiting through the alley behind his store in that instance.
“It seems more than a coincidence,” Katz said, speculating that it was “either random vandalism or it was anti-Semitism.”
Following the last fire, Timianski said videotape revealed that the arsonists made no attempt to look for money or valuables.
“They didn’t touch anything. They came to make damage,” Timianski said. “There was nothing taken. So you have to ask, ‘Why focus on a place like this?’”