Imam addresses Israeli Peace Activists 311.
(photo credit: Ben Hartman)
Some two dozen Israeli peace activists visited the northern West Bank village of Lubban Sharkiya on Friday, to tour a mosque that suffered serious damage last Monday night in a fire widely believed to be an act of arson.
The tour, which was held under the banner “Say No to Settler Harassment,” was organized by Combatants for Peace, the Committee against House Demolitions and Rabbis for Human Rights, and was meant as a show of solidarity with local residents.
On Friday, Combatants for Peace activist Idan Barir said the visit was organized so people “could see for themselves, and judge for themselves what happened there.”
Barir said that uncertainty in the media over whether or not the blaze was caused by arson has made the issue drop off the front pages, and that the trip was important for people to not only see for themselves, but also show that such actions don’t speak for all Israelis.
The mosque in the center of the village outside Nablus suffered serious
damage during the fire, and a tour of the building Friday showed a
house of worship in no condition to hold prayers anytime soon. The
interior walls of the building were covered in black soot and the scent
of ash and burnt plastic, wood, and drywall hung rankly in the air.
Cracks showed on support beams, and metal framing beams on the ceiling were warped from the heat of the blaze.
Local Council Head Abu Ala Daradhma said that repairing the mosque
would require completely rebuilding the ceiling and reinforcing the
support beams, a process that should take months.
Residents said the source of the fire was a stack of Korans piled in a
semi-circle with a shoe on top. Alu Daradhma said there was “no way
whatsoever” that anyone [innocent] would desecrate the holy texts in
such a way, and that as far as he was concerned there was no doubt the
fire was arson.
While arson hasn’t been definitively proven, a Fire and Rescue Service
spokesman said Friday that the fire was most likely criminal and not
the result of an electrical problem.
Alu Daradhma said that since the incident, well-wishers from the
Palestinian Authority and beyond have come to show their support,
including representatives from the anti-Zionist Natorei Karta sect,
who, he said, had vowed to return and help renovate the mosque.
Outside the mosque on Friday, a stage and speakers were set up before a
large patch of the main street covered in carpet for the purpose of
prayers. The makeshift mosque was set up to host the first Friday
afternoon prayers since the arson, and by noon hundreds of worshipers,
including PA officials from across the West Bank, had arrived to pray.
In the adjacent community center, dozens of locals met with the
visitors, as did several senior Fatah officials visiting from Nablus
Rabbi Barry Leff from Rabbis for Human Rights addressed the crowd,
saying that “people who would harm innocent people, or who would
destroy a house of worship are not following any true religion.”
Judaism teaches its followers to honor others, he added.