“I just want to say how horrified, how ashamed I am,” Jerusalem councilwoman
Laura Wharton said as she stood on Thursday outside the mosque in Jaba, near
Ramallah, which was vandalized by Jewish extremists two days earlier.
want to apologize as an Israeli and a Jew,” she said.
brown-haired woman traveled to Jaba, along with members of Rabbis for Human
Rights and a group called Tag Meir, to express her horror and to show the
villagers that there were people in Israel who condemned such
She briefly poured out her heart in English to Mayor Abdal
Kariam Bisharat, who wore a white keffiyeh and a gray suit. Her hand on her
heart, Wharton told him she was among the “quiet majority” in Israel “who really
He listened, nodded, and responded.
“We accept your
condemnation and your personal apology,” he said.
“We hope that you and
people like are the real face of Israelis, and we hope that you and people like
you struggle as much as you can to stop similar actions,” he
Bisharat showed the small group of visitors the spot where vandals
had shattered a mosque window, to light a fire in a small corner of the
Glass shards littered the burned red carpet. The inside wall
was covered with black smoke stains.
On the mosque’s exterior stone wall,
vandals had spray-painted the words, “Price tag,” a term coined by Jewish
extremists to describe acts of vandalism against Palestinian property, in
retribution for security forces’ demolitions of settler homes.
vandals also spray-painted the words “Ulpana war,” in reference to the slated
evacuation of five apartment buildings in the Ulpana outpost on the outskirts of
the Beit El settlement by July 1.
Jaba sits on a hill overlooking Route
60, right behind the Rami Levi supermarket in the Sha’ar Binyamin industrial
zone and not far from Beit El.
The mosque is perched on the side of a
hill, from where it is possible to see the site by the Psagot winery where
construction crews are placing modular homes for the 50 families in the Migron
outpost, which is due for evacuation by August 1.
Bisharat said that it
was the desecration of place of worship that upset him the most.
a holy site,” he said.
The vandalism “is an attack on our religion... It
is a declaration of war against the Palestinian inhabitants of Jaba or any other
village,” Bisharat said.
Villager Muhammad Bisharat said that what
worried him was the children in the community, some of whom had come to the
mosque and crowded around the visitors. They held up signs from the Tag Meir
group, which was created six months ago, and operates in all of Israel,
including in the West Bank, against acts of racial, ethnic or religious
One sign said, “Spread the light, together against
Another read, “We welcome you in peace.”
here, they would never know they were under occupation if this did not happen,”
Muhammad Bisharat said.
His voice rose in anger as he spoke. “Those
idiots who did this, will make these kids grow up with this in their
Rabbi Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights brought copies
of the Koran as a present for the mosque’s worshipers. He said that such a
desecration of a holy place was an “attack against God.”
The vandals were
trying to fan religious conflict and hatred, he said.
“We think that it
is important to say as rabbis, ‘Not in our name,’” Ascherman said.