(photo credit: AP)
At the request of Jonathan Pollard, Rabbi Ya’acov Shapira, head of the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva, will launch various educational and spiritual activities designed to strengthen the Jewish hold on a disputed house in east Jerusalem.
During a meeting last month at the Butner Federal Correction Complex in North Carolina, Pollard asked Shapira to do everything in his power to strengthen the Jewish hold on Beit Yehonatan, a seven-story building named after Pollard and located in Silwan, a predominantly Arab neighborhood in east Jerusalem.
“I have approached various people to help make sure that a Jewish voice is heard at Beit Yehonatan at all times of the day and night,” said Shapira, who took over the highly influential position of yeshiva head at Merkaz Harav, the flagship educational institution of religious Zionists, from his father the late Rabbi Avraham Shapira, a former chief Ashkenazi rabbi.
“Torah classes will be organized there, as well as prayers and lectures, with the goal of increasing public awareness on the plight of a man who has done so much for the state of Israel,” said Shapira Thursday in an interview with The Jerusalem Post
Shapira said that he was in contact with Mati Dan, chairman of Ateret Cohanim, an organization that purchases buildings from east Jerusalem Arabs in a bid to strengthen the Jewish presence there.
“We will attempt to do everything possible, within the framework of the law, to make sure that people hear about Pollard.”
Shapira said that his meeting with Pollard (pictured) lasted for two and a half hours and that the prisoner spoke “calmly and logically.”
“That poor man is a hero and instead he is being treated like a criminal. Everything must be done to get him released. My hope is that by keeping his name in the headlines we will achieve this,” said Shapira.
Peace Now’s Hagit Ofran labeled Shapira’s statements “provocative” on Thursday, and told the Post
that structures such as Beit Yehonatan “would only prevent a final-status deal [with the Palestinians] from taking place in Jerusalem.”
“Rabbi Shapira apparently wants to turn east Jerusalem into Hebron,” Ofran said. “And all he’s doing is making provocations in the middle of a Palestinian neighborhood in east Jerusalem.” Abe Selig contributed to this report.