Last Tuesday was the third time in the past year Rabbi Menahem Froman paid a
respectful visit to a vandalized West Bank mosque, allegedly damaged by Jewish
RELATED:Rabbis deliver apologies, new Korans to vandalized mosque Barak: 'Those who vandalised mosque are terrorists'
To extend apologies and deliver new Korans in the place of
those damaged by the flames in the Beit Fajar mosque, Froman also brought two of
nearby Gush Etzion’s most important rabbis, Alon Shvut resident and head of the
Har Etzion Yeshiva Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, and Efrat’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo
For Froman, a longtime resident of Tekoa and indefatigable peace
advocate and activist, the source of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict is
religious. Therefore, its resolution can only be reached through believers,
spiritual leaders, rabbis and imams.
“We’ve seen the efficacy of the
Western thesis that what is going on here is a territorial dispute that can be
solved through exchange of territory,” he recently told The Jerusalem Post
noting the floundering peace talks revolving around land issues and how the
withdrawal from the Gaza Strip only distanced peace by winning Hamas more power
“The root of the dispute is religion. The West
doesn’t give enough respect to Islam; it just doesn’t grasp it,” he
“A fundamental given in the conflict here is that in the
perspective of the Muslim world, founding the State of Israel in the heart of
the Arab world is an expression of Western hubris, a means of humiliation.
Establishing a flourishing Western country is tantamount to them to sticking a
finger in the eye of the Arab world, to show the power and advantages of the
And to that mind-set, Froman said, Israel is also a secular
entity, led by nonbelievers who lack understanding of and respect for religion.
Froman cites the late Hamas spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who told him
that the two of them could reach a peace arrangement in five minutes. For the
likes of Yassin, the Oslo Accords were an example of “our infidels and yours
reaching an agreement to eliminate religion,” Froman quoted.
like Yassin and late Palestinian Authority chairman Yasser Arafat, both of whom
were behind murderous terror attacks against Israelis and Jews, have caused
Froman to become ostracized by many within the settlement movement, but as he
noted, “I am one of the founders of Gush Emunim, not somebody who just moved out
To Froman, the settlements not only should not be removed to
promote an arrangement, but can be the hands extended in peace to the
So if it is a clash of civilizations that is perpetuating Israel’s
bleeding gridlock with the Arab and Muslim world, what can one say of its
northern neighbor, the small beautiful country so torn by inner strife? Many
Lebanese cheered long and loud when Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir visited
Druse leader Walid Jumblatt in the mountainous Chouf area on August 8, 2001.
That long awaited visit was historic, marking the reconciliation between the
Druse and Christian communities after the bloody “War of the Mountains” during
which scores were massacred and many more forced to leave their homes. By 2010,
many Christians had returned to their villages and rebuilt them.
also hailed the February 18, 2010 ministerial council declaration of
“Annunciation Day” (the event on March 25 marking the moment the angel Gabriel
told Mary that she would become the mother of Jesus) as a common
Christian-Muslim national holiday.
All hopes were that such a decision
would “helps in bringing hearts together,” as the Maronite Catholic Council of
But with the same ease Lebanese are open to all forms of
dialogue, they can easily put aside friendly ties and coexistence, and turn
weapons against each other. Hence they are always prepared for war, be it with
Israel or of a fratricidal nature.
Tawfik lives in Beirut’s Chayah
neighborhood, the seam between Muslim and Christian populaces famous for being
the starting point of the Lebanese civil war. “Interfaith dialogue is
meaningless when coming from above. It’s a discussion among elites that leads to
nothing. When politics are involved, it hinders everything,” he
“True dialogue should happen among the people. When people here
realize that what unites them is bigger that what separates them, this is what
is called a dialogue. For God’s sake, they share the same poverty, the same
problems and the same discrimination from the government.”
One can argue
against comparing between the nature of the conflicts on the respective sides of
the Israeli- Lebanese border, but Tawfik’s statement regarding the impeding
effect of politics on reconciliatory efforts is shared by Froman, who believes
that the religious imperative of seeking peace is hampered in Israel by its
politicians, who he says are stricken by “religious blindness.”
had any sense in them, they’d send religious leaders to conduct talks for them,”
he said. “You simply cannot ignore religion in the Holy Land.”
leaders in Israel do actively seek peace, Froman said, noting the efforts of
both Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger,
who is promoting the forming of a “religion United Nations,” based on his belief
and experience regarding the vast common grounds people of faith have,
regardless of their nationality.
It is impossible to underestimate the
significance of Froman’s ongoing dialogue with the Muslim world. Only two days
after Gaza-bound Mavi Marmara flotilla was intercepted in a clash that left nine
dead and stoked the flames between Ankara and Jerusalem to unprecedented
heights, Turkish Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan met with Froman, a result
of an ongoing correspondence with one of Erdogan’s close aides. The two
discussed peace, the relations between the countries, Turkey’s Jewish community
and the captive IDF soldier Gilad Schalit.
Froman hoped that Erdogan’s
ties with Iran, Syria and Hamas could help promote Schalit’s release from Hamas
captivity in Gaza.
Froman is also in dialogue with the US administration,
which he had hoped would be a harbinger of change in the West’s perception of
and attitude toward Islam, due to President Barack Obama’s unique background and
upbringing. Till that happens, Froman is trudging ahead in his Sisyphean journey
to live the concluding passage of the talmudic tractate Brachot, which is part
of the daily prayers: “Torah scholars increase peace in the world.”
Join Jerusalem Post Premium Plus now for just $5 and upgrade your experience with an ads-free website and exclusive content. Click here>>