Jerusalem Chief Rabbi Aryeh Stern.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem Rabbi Aryeh Stern has ruled that Jewish law requires that efforts be made to release Palestinian-American Isaam Akel from his incarceration by the Palestinian Authority for selling land to Jews.
Akel, a resident of east Jerusalem with US citizenship, was arrested by PA security forces two months ago. He is suspected of acting as a solicitor in the sale of a house in the Old City of Jerusalem to a Jewish organization.
In response to a letter from the Im Tirtzu organization, Stern ruled that just as there is an obligation in Jewish law to help poor non-Jews, there is also an obligation to free non-Jewish captives like there is an obligation free Jewish captives.
“In the Talmud and Jewish law we learned that we provide for poor non-Jews together with poor Jews, and this means that the same should be true and we should redeem non-Jewish captives just like Jewish captives,” ruled Stern, adding that the commandment to get captives released is an important precept in Jewish law.
He added that the fact that Akel was arrested for selling land to Jews made it even more important to help get him released, since it is part of the commandment to settle the Land of Israel
The rabbi added that it was crucial to help Akel to thwart the deterrent effect of the PA, whose actions deter Palestinians from selling land to Jews.
Im Tirtzu welcomed Stern’s ruling, calling it a “historic and brave” move by the rabbi.
“For the first time, a significant figure in the rabbinical institution is intervening on behalf of the Palestinians who have become targets for the Palestinian Authority in the capital,” said Lt.-Col. (res.) Baruch Yedid, head of Im Tirtzu’s Arab Affairs desk.
“We hope that these words will lead to action and that the rest of the authorities in Israel will act in this spirit and put an end to Palestinian lawlessness in Jerusalem. The authorities must provide protection to Israeli residents and assert de facto sovereignty.”
US Ambassador David Friedman has also demanded Akel’s release, saying in November that “his incarceration is antithetical to the values of the US and to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence.”
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