yasuf mosque book 248.88.
(photo credit: B'Tselem)
Bearing copies of the Koran, a Hanukka song translated into Arabic, and a lot of good will, a colorful contingent of moderate rabbis, poets and modern Orthodox youths and professors arrived Sunday at the entrance to Yasuf, a village near Nablus, to protest an arson attack there against a mosque.
"We've come here to make a statement that the burning of holy sites is opposed to Halacha," said Rabbi Menachem Froman, who personally paid for over a dozen new Korans to replace those that were burned by unknown arsonists on Friday.
"We want to help clean the mosque and rebuilt it and drink coffee with the residents of Yasuf," added Froman, who lives in Tekoa, a settlement in Judea.
However, the group, which included Rabbi Yehuda Gilad and Rabbi David Bigman of the Kibbutz Ma'aleh Gilboa Yeshiva, the poet Eliaz Cohen and others were prevented from entering the village located at the Tapuah junction in Samaria.
According to reporters who entered the village Sunday morning, the atmosphere was tense. There were reportedly some disturbances when it was learned that the Jews were at the village entrance. The security forces thus prevented the Jewish visitors from entering, fearing for their safety.
Munir Aboushi, governor of the Salfit region, which includes Yasuf, told The Jerusalem Post that he feared a violent reaction to the torching of the mosque.
"I believe that someone might do something," said Abbushi. "People are very angry."
He blamed Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman for squandering all of the headway made by the late prime minister Yitzhak Rabin during the Oslo Accords.
Abbushi accepted the Korans that were brought by Froman, who has a long history of interfaith dialogue with Islamic leaders, including those of Hamas, out a belief that religious faith could bridge the differences between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East.
Young men with large knitted kippot, scraggly beards and loose-fitting flannel shirts, who might've looked more in place on a lone hilltop building an outpost, sang "We Came to Dispel the Darkness" ("Banu Hoshech Legaresh") in Arabic and in Hebrew.
The young men held hands with a reluctant Abbushi and began dancing.
Cohen, a teacher at Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz's yeshiva high school in Gush Etzion, read a poem he wrote in protest against the attack on the mosque.
"Those who in the fervor of their foreign fire saturate the land with blood - they are not my brothers," read Cohen.
"Those who in the desecration of God, set fire to a house of prayer - they are not my brothers.
"Those who destroy this home together with its residents - they are not my brothers, they are not my brothers."
Gilad, a former Meimad MK who is the rabbi of Kibbutz Lavi, said that other rabbis, including Rabbi Ya'acov Meidan, head of the Gush Etzion Yeshiva, supported the delegation's message of peace.
Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger had planned to visit Yasuf but was forced to postpone his arrival, because Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad was visiting the village and the security coordination would have been too complicated, Chief Rabbinate Director-General Oded Weiner said.
Metzger, who sharply condemned Friday's attack, might visit the village on Monday.
Speaking to Army Radio on Sunday morning, Metzger said the act was "not the proper way" for settlers to fight for their cause.
"I am shocked by the attack," he said. "People cannot take the law into their own hands."
Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy Sites, said that holy sites must be "off limits" when it comes to the regional conflict, adding that "the severe attack" must be investigated and its perpetrators caught swiftly.
"We were all shocked by the attack on the synagogues in Gush Katif and other places in the world, when people of no faith and values found a way to attack our holiest ways," he said in a statement on Sunday. "We must not replicate those vandals."
Early on Friday, unknown arsonists set fire to the Yasuf mosque, destroying copies of the Koran and carpets.
The arsonists also spray-painted threatening messages in Hebrew on the building's floor, including "We will burn you all."
Arab news outlets blamed Jews from Tapuah, the neighboring settlement.