Metzger faces protests on visit to Yasuf mosque

Metzger faces protests o

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger visited Yasuf on Monday to decry the vandalizing of a mosque that took place over the weekend. Metzger was received with protests by dozens of Yasuf residents, who waved Palestinian Authority flags and held up banners in Hebrew, English and Arabic against West Bank settlements. About 200 Palestinians stood in the center of the village to watch the arrival of Metzger's convoy, since the sight of Israelis other than soldiers is extremely rare. At the entrance to the damaged mosque, Metzger denounced Friday's vandalism, saying, "We, the nation of Israel, were traumatized 70 years ago, when the greatest destruction in our history, the Shoah, began as the burning of synagogues during Kristallnacht. "There were hundreds of synagogues. They took all of the holy books out onto the street and burned them," Metzger said. "We are still living this trauma. And in the state of Israel we will not allow a Jew to do something like this to Muslims." Young boys scaled the walls and hung on the fence around the mosque's porch, saying "That's him! That's him!" and pointing at the rabbi, who wore a black hat and jacket with a lavender tie. Others greeted the rabbi with signs reading, "No to Settlements, No to Occupation." Mahmoud Abu Salah, 48, the former head of the village council, greeted the rabbi. He said he was pleased with the visit but doubted it would do much to stop what he said was years of harassment from the Israeli settlers. "The government will say the top rabbi came and condemned it, but it still lets the settlers get away with everything," he said. Some angry villagers rejected Metzger's gesture. "Why did he come? Does the one who set a fire come to put it out?" asked Ahmed Juda, 20. "In any case, he's an enemy. He's from Israel, so he's an enemy." The visit by an Israeli dignitary to a Palestinian village, along with the reference to the emotionally charged issue of the Holocaust, reflected the depth of concern caused by last week's mosque attack. Israeli leaders have since been scrambling to reduce tensions. There have been no arrests for last Friday's blaze. But authorities believe Jewish extremists carried out the attack in retaliation for the government-ordered freeze on new construction in the settlements. The attackers burned prayer carpets and a book stand with Muslim holy texts, leaving Hebrew graffiti on the floor. A group of rabbis and other Jews who tried to enter the settlement on Sunday to condemn the arson were denied entry by the security forces. Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report .