In the sweltering heat of Sunday afternoon and the bitter atmosphere of recent days, some 150 people gathered in the Etzion settlement bloc to condemn the slaying of Ali Dawabsha, the Palestinian toddler who was burnt to death in the village of Duma on Friday morning.
Dawabsha’s parents and elder brother remain in the hospital with severe injuries sustained in the arson attack.
The event, staged at the Gush Etzion junction at the entrance to the Alon Shvut settlement, was designed as a prayer vigil and a show of solidarity against violence, initiated by Shorashim, a joint Israeli-Palestinian coexistence organization based in the area.
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The crowd was comprised entirely of Israelis, including many residents of the settlements in the area. Those who spoke included several notable rabbis, Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid, and two Palestinian peace activists and local residents, Sheikh Ibrahim Abu El-Hawa and Ziad Sabateen.
All of the speakers spoke out against violence, deplored the use of God’s name to justify murder and called for the perpetrators of the attack to be brought to justice.
Rabbanit Hadassah Froman, the wife of the late rabbi and coexistence advocate Menachem Froman, spoke with a melancholic tinge to her words, and reminded those present of the pain that felt across Israel due to the abduction and murder last summer of three teenage boys, Naftali Fraenkel, Gil-Ad Shaer and Eyal Yifrah, at the exact spot where the prayer ceremony was being staged.
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“Death only brings more death, and the spilling of blood causes exile,” lamented Froman. “To merit living in this country we must chose life and see the spark of God in everyone. We must remove the barriers between us and create a bridge, because anything is possible but it depends on us.”
Lapid spoke briefly but passionately against the murder and called for intensive efforts to be taken against those who incite such to violence.
“It is the ultimate evil to burn a child and we will not be silent in the face of this evil,” said the Yesh Atid chairman.
“God will never permit the murder of child, no god supports murder and we must go to war against this idea.”
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after the event, Lapid criticized the failure of the security services to investigate and arrest rabbis who incite to violence as one of the major problems in combating Jewish extremism.
“There is a rabbinic infrastructure behind this phenomenon, and the job of the Shin Bet isn’t so complicated,” said Lapid. “They need to start putting [Shin Bet] people into synagogues, and any rabbi that incites must be arrested, investigated, and punished. The fact that this hasn’t been done until now is part of the problem and we need to deal with this kind of violence that leads to murder in a much more determined fashion.”
He added that part of the reason why this had not been done until now is that “in error we believed that Jews would never behave like this, but since Baruch Goldstein [killed 29 Muslim worshipers and wounded another 125 at the Cave of the Patriarchs in 1994] we should have known that this isn’t the case.”
Rabbi Yaakov Medan, one of the co-deans of the Har Etzion Yeshiva in Alon Shvut, condemned the attack and said that everyone gathered could identify with the pain felt by relatives of the Dawabsha family.
He also demanded that anyone with information about the attackers report what they know to the police and that anyone who suspects that someone may carry out a similar attack also report any information they have.
Medan insisted however that those who perpetrated the attack on the Dawabsha family were “the margins of the outer margins of our society,” and said that in contrast many Palestinians support acts of terror against Israelis.
Sheikh Ibrahim Abu El-Hawa, a resident of Gush Etzion and a peace activist, thanked those who had come to the ceremony and spoke of the importance of coexistence between Jews and Arabs.
“If this is land of God then we are all guests here and we have to live in love and peace,” said the sheikh.
“God brought you here to this gathering to show the world we are all one, the seed of Abraham and the children of one God. Share with your heart, love your neighbor as yourself, this is what we are commanded. We are all one, we have two mothers but must love each other.”
Also present was Rabbi Aviah Hacohen, an educator in a yeshiva in the nearby settlement of Tekoa, who spoke out strongly against rabbis who he implied are responsible for incitement against the Palestinian population.
“Rabbis who do not speak out against this incident must be denounced, there should be no place for them in synagogues or study halls,” said Hacohen.
He specifically referenced Rabbi Dov Lior, a hard-line leader of the conservative wing of the national religious community and the settler movement, and Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg, a well-known radical figure and president of the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva in the Yitzhar settlement.
A book called Torat Hamelech (“The King’s Torah”) which states that non-Jewish non - combatants, including children, may be preemptively killed in a time of war, was written by two rabbis at the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva and given an approbation by Lior.
At the end of the event, Rabbi Hanan Schlesinger, director of international relations for Shorashim, read a declaration by rabbis and other leaders associated with the organization and the solidarity event.
“We are saddened and angered by this crime and we are ashamed of it as well,” read the declaration.
“The murderers who did this have done irreparable harm to the direct victims and to the Palestinian people, and at the same time have committed a sinful and disgraceful act against God, against the Torah, and against the Jewish people who live in this land.”
The statement called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice and punished to the full extent of the law, “thereby preventing them from repeating their evil deeds.”