The website designed to promote a unity walk for the State of Israel briefly transformed Tuesday into a dark, anti-Semitic billboard.
"It was about noon or 12:15 p.m. when I started to receive text messages, emails, phone calls from people that had visited the website and noticed that it had been hacked," said Andre Douville, CEO of the annual Walk for Israel. "Some individual or organization, at this point I’m not sure, had hacked the website and placed their own homepage, an anti-Semitic epitaph, on the Walk for Israel domain."
The black page was dotted with stars, small green writing, and a white headline bearing an expletive and misspelled version of the word, "Zionist."
"I was really dismayed and angry," said Douville, who also serves as executive director of Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield Township. "I think that we live in a community here where we’re really blessed, because it’s a very supportive community and it’s a very diverse area. For the most part, this is not something that we experience on a regular basis and we’re very lucky for that."
Hackers also managed to snarl the back-end of the site, blocking Douville from taking down the offensive message, he said.
"I had to get in touch with the hosting website...and luckily they do a weekly backup of our website and they were able to restore to a previous version, which was very helpful," he said.
The site was restored to its archived version by 2:45 p.m., around two-and-a-half hours after the hack was spotted.
"It was, unfortunately, live for that long because it took me time to find the right people to take it down," Douville said. "I wish it could have been quicker."
Douville filed a report Tuesday evening with the West Bloomfield Police Department.
"The investigation has been turned over to our detective division," Deputy Chief Curt Lawson said. "And also we have notified the FBI, so they’re aware of the situation."
Involving federal officials is standard in cases that may rise to the level of a hate crime, according to Lawson.
"We work side by side with the FBI," he said. "I know that like us, they take it very seriously."
Lawson declined to provide further details about the ongoing investigation.
Meanwhile, the Walk for Israel site is back online.
"It's back up and we put in some additional security protocols," Douville said. "It's functional and protected."
One day after the hack, Douville's focus is on the 12th annual Walk for Israel, scheduled for May 7 at Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield Township.
"The message is we’re not going to let something like this intimidate us and prevent us from doing what we do, which is bringing the community together to show support for the State of Israel, and the Israel-U.S. relationship," Douville said. "We bounced right back and we’re going to be even stronger."