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(photo credit: AP [file])
In his first public declaration on Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar called this week on American Jews to explain to the Obama administration the religious obligation of every Jew to live in every part of the Land of Israel.
In a letter addressed to American rabbinical organizations and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations that was obtained by The Jerusalem Post, Amar wrote that "the Torah commands the Jewish people to live in Israel. And we hear that the US is putting pressure on the Israeli government to prevent Jews from living or building their homes in large parts of the Land of Israel.
"This is being done at a time when every person is allowed to live wherever he wishes to live in every area of the world, while here in Israel [Americans] want to create a [Palestinian] state in which it will be prohibited for Jews to live. And even expanding existing settlements is prohibited.
"We ask you to take advantage of your strength and power to influence the authorities in the US, that they should examine the issue with truly democratic criteria and to take into consideration the Torah and the Halacha that obligate Jews to settle everywhere."
Amar wrote that he was not speaking from a political or diplomatic point of view, rather solely from a religious point of view.
The idea to write the letter to American Jews was initiated by Rabbi Sholom Gold, founding rabbi of Zichron Yosef Synagogue in Jerusalem's Har Nof neighborhood.
Gold spoke on Shabbat before Amar and other rabbis who had gathered at Kfar Giladi for a rabbinical conference sponsored by the Ariel Institute. Gold spoke of how it was unjust to turn areas of the Land of Israel Judenrein - a Nazi term for "cleansed of Jews."
Gold's speech aroused a strong wave of agreement among the rabbis, including Amar, who resolved to draft a letter after Shabbat.
"The American pressure is extremely disconcerting," said Gold, in a telephone interview. "The point of the letter is to use the influence of rabbis and leaders in the US to ease the terrible pressure being put on Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East. It is unfair and unwise."
Oded Weiner, director-general of the Chief Rabbinate, who signed the letter along with Gold and other rabbis, sent it the Presidents' Conference, the Orthodox Union, Young Israel and other Jewish organizations in the US.
Chief Rabbi of Haifa She'ar Yashuv Cohen said that preventing Jews from settling in the Land of Israel went against a long, illustrious history of famous rabbis settling here.
"Jews should be allowed to exercise their religious right to settle wherever they want in Israel," Cohen said in an interview on Radio Kol Chai.
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