Prayers were held for the first time in decades Monday at a synagogue in Sidon,
Lebanon, as American anti-Zionist rabbis visited the site 30 years after the
city’s last Jews left.
Two rabbis from the Natorei Karta movement toured
the building – once Sidon’s main synagogue – in the area still known as the
southern coastal city’s “Jewish quarter.” The building, which still bears Star
of David motifs and Hebrew inscriptions, now houses Palestinian refugees from
the 1967 Six Day War and their descendants.
The rabbis wore Arab
keffiyehs around their necks, and badges on their chest reading in English and
Arabic, “A Jew, not a Zionist.”
Beirut’s Daily Star newspaper reported
the rabbis expressed hoped the current tenants would “soon return home,” and
their pain at the “crimes and sufferings inflicted by the Zionist movement and
Israel on Palestinians in and outside Palestine.”
Judaism is one of 18
religious sects officially recognized in Lebanon. The country’s Jewish
population peaked at around 20,000 at the turn of the last century, but today
numbers only a few dozen – almost all in Beirut.
Sidon’s small Jewish
population began to shrink in 1948 when some left for the newborn State of
Israel. The city’s Jewish community began dwindling after the 1975 outbreak of
Lebanon’s Civil War, and its last members left after the Israeli military
invasion seven years later.
“For 40 years we have not seen a rabbi in
Sidon. And the last Jewish families left after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon
in 1982, fearing reprisals,” a resident told the AFP news agency, adding that
Jews still owned land and property in the city.
Natorei Karta is an
ultra- Orthodox sect opposed to Israel’s existence on religious grounds. The
group claims its adherents are in the thousands, but it has fewer than 100
members active in anti-Israel activity, mainly in Monsey, New York, Jerusalem’s
Mea She’arim quarter and Ramat Beit Shemesh.
AFP reported that one of the
rabbis visiting Sidon, Yisroel Dovid Weiss, spoke to his guests about the
essential similarity between Judaism and Islam, and said members of both
religions had lived together peacefully before the advent of the Zionist
Weiss met later with MP Osama Saad, head of the Popular
Nasserist Organization, an Arab nationalist faction dominated by
Sunnis. Weiss has participated in a series of high-profile anti-Israel
events. In 2001 he joined a Muslim delegation to the UN’s World Conference
against Racism in Durban, South Africa, in which US and Israeli delegates walked
out in protest against what they perceived as the forum’s overriding anti-
Five years later he attended the International Conference to
Review the Global Vision of the Holocaust in Iran, where he accused Israelis of
using the Holocaust to win sympathy and defended remarks by the country’s
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad calling for Israel’s elimination.
Star reported that on his visit to Sidon, Weiss visited the tomb traditionally
attributed to Zevulun, the head of one of the biblical 12 tribes of Israel. He
also visited the city’s Jewish cemetery, a frequent target of
Last week Weiss and another Natorei Karta rabbi participated
in a procession of 2,000 Palestinians to Beaufort Castle in southern Lebanon as
part of “Land Day” protests against Israeli land policies.