Rabbi Eliezer Berland is calling on his followers to temporarily refrain from visiting the monastery and church in Stella Maris in Haifa on Thursday.
Berland acceded to the request of the police to cool the spirits and temporarily suspend the prayers of his followers in Stella Maris. In the sermon he delivered on Monday, Rabbi Berland announced that "no one is to go to Stella Maris. It is impossible to go there until Rosh Hashanah. Let them arrange a special place for the people of Breslav and all the people of Israel so that they can pray."
The "Shuvu Bonim" yeshiva, headed by Berland, said that during the negotiations conducted with them by the Chief Rabbi of the Police, Rabbi Rami Berachyahu, the chief rabbi took it upon himself to arrange a place of prayer for Jews in the area of the monastery. At his request, Rabbi Berland issued the order to his followers not to go near there until the matter is settled.
Berland told his followers this week about the special connection he has with the place as someone who grew up in Haifa, and as someone who was born in the maternity ward that operated not far from the church. Hassidim of Shuvu Bonim said this week that if Rabbi Berland cannot go to Uman on Rosh Hashanah, they will come with the Rabbi to Stella Maris, set up a tent, and celebrate the holiday there.
Stella Maris Monastery belongs to the Carmelite Order, one of the most important orders in the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church is very concerned about attempts made in recent weeks to create a new reality in which ultra-Orthodox go up to pray at the entrance of the monastery, or even inside it. Shuvu Bonim Hassids believe that the prophet Elisha is buried there, a claim denied by the church.
In a video distributed by one of the members of Shuvu Bonimn Rahamim Bracha, he called on Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich to prepare to allocate a budget for the mission, "so that the 'Shuvu Bonim' yeshiva and the people of Israel will have a warm place when they make the pilgrimage, that there will be a mass influx of Jews to Stella Maris; to the tomb of the prophet Elisha and Elijah the prophet." He added, "Just as President Herzog and the Commissioner of Police were privileged to enter Elisha's tomb, we will also be privileged to enter."
Bracha also called on National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, formerly a lawyer who represented the yeshiva "to help the people of Breslav, and for the State of Israel, to contribute to discussing the issue and help us and even make a direct bus line every day from Jerusalem back and forth like to Meron."
A senior official in the Shuvu Bonim community said to Walla referring to the issue: "As we have said all along, we had no desire to occupy or take over the Stella Maris Monastery or to harass the Christians there." The official added, "In general, we wanted them to allow us to stand outside, since according to the Halacha it is forbidden to go inside and pray, just as Christians visit the Western Wall and King David's tomb in Jerusalem."
He requested to add that "it is a great shame that nationalist elements took the people of the monastery for a ride and inflamed their passions and spirits to the point of violence and bloodshed against Jews who sought to pray in a holy place for them."
He emphasized, "From our point of view, we have achieved what we wanted. First of all, today the entire nation of Israel already knows that the tomb of the prophet Elisha is on Mount Carmel near the cave of the prophet Elijah, and the most important thing is that soon there will also be a regulated place for Jewish prayer near there. We are sure that the Israel Police will stand by the summaries and soon we will see things moving forward for the benefit of everyone."
Shuvu Bonim took pains to emphasize that they were not the only ones among those who visited the church in the last few weeks and thereby cause an uproar in the Christian community in Israel. Even if a settlement was reached with them, even a temporary one, as the rabbi's words show, it would not bind those opposed to it.
In addition, senior officials in the Catholic Church told Walla that they are aware of rumors about negotiations with the followers and they have already informed the police that they are "not ready for any change in the existing situation, neither in the monastery nor near it, and [will] not be a party to any compromise of this kind because there is nothing to compromise here."
Stella Maris Monastery resists Judaization of church grounds
On Sunday evening, another demonstration of solidarity with the Carmelite monks is planned in the church square, which is expected to be attended by hundreds of Christian Arabs.
Wednesday, against the background of the recent attacks against the monastery in particular and against houses of prayer and Christian clergy in general, President Issac Herzog met at Stella Maris alongside the Police Chief Kobi Shabtai, and the abbot of the monastery, Father Jean Joseph Bargara.
They met with a plethora of Christian religious leaders: Theophilos III, the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem, Pierbattista Pizzabala, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Archbishop Aristarchus, Secretary General of the Greek Patriarchate, Bishop Rafik Nahra, the Patriarchal Deputy in Israel, Father Elias El-Abd, Secretary General of the Greek-Catholic Patriarchate, Archbishop Hossam Noum, head of the Anglican Church in Israel and Monsignor Natala Alvino, Secretary General of the Vatican Embassy.
During the meeting, Herzog said, "I am coming here on behalf of the entire State of Israel and the people of Israel to commit and to commit again to the full protection of freedom of religion and worship in the State of Israel. This is a commitment that we have given since the dawn of our existence and we adhere to it, from light to serious, together with the enforcement agencies in order to ensure peace and tranquility in this place. All the churches and all the sacred sites of the Christian denominations in the State of Israel, in the Holy Land, will be preserved as it was from time immemorial."
It was concluded that members of Shuvu Bonim will stop frequenting the church at this stage until after Rosh Hashanah.
Additionally, Walla learned that as part of the agreement, the Haifa Municipality will place a sign at the location stating that, according to Halacha, it is forbidden to enter the church. The sign will note that in the coming months, an option to find an agreed-upon place, that is not on the territory of the church and monastery, where Jews can pray, will be investigated.