Rabbis, Yasuf elders meet at junction

Settlers to meet Palesti

yasuf mosque book 248.88 (photo credit: B'Tselem)
yasuf mosque book 248.88
(photo credit: B'Tselem)
Dozens of rabbis who had planned to visit the Palestinian village of Yasuf - where a mosque was vandalized on Friday - met with the village elders at the Tapuah junction on Sunday afternoon after being held up for several hours by the IDF. The Jewish leaders presented the Palestinian group with Koran books to replace those burnt in the fire. Representatives of the group of rabbis told Army Radio that the aim of the meeting in Yasuf was to present the view of the "sane majority which condemns acts of extremism." At the meeting, Tekoa Rabbi Menahem Fruman told the Muslim leaders that Friday's arson attack contradicted halacha (Jewish law), and said that those who vandalized the mosque were trying to further aggravate the situation in the West Bank. In a Channel 2 interview on Sunday evening, Fruman said, "I want to work for peace - the peace of God." The rabbi added that he expects "every man with a mouth, especially if he represents religion, to use it to add peace in the world." Fruman concluded the interview by saying "Peace will prevail." Munir Abushi, the Palestinian governor of Salfit, the district where the village is located, thanked the rabbis for the Koran books and for their gesture of solidarity with the Palestinians against the arson attack. "I thank you for coming here to identify with us against this violent act, which undermines peace in the area," Abushi said. "This act was racist. We support real peace," he said. Earlier in the day, it had been reported that the IDF was preventing dozens of Gush Etzion residents from entering Yasuf, due to "tensions" in the northern West Bank village. According to the IDF Spokesman Unit, the army did not intend to prevent the group "from entering the area of the mosque that was burned last weekend, but security must be coordinated before their entrance." At Sunday's cabinet meeting, meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called Friday's arson attack "especially severe - a crime against religion." He added that the attack "goes against every human value, against Jewish values and the heritage of the state of Israel." The prime minister said that the government is taking the offense very seriously. "I requested that security services make a special effort in catching the guilty parties and bringing them to justice. The weight of the entire justice system must be brought against those guilty," he said. Assailants vandalized the Yasuf mosque early Friday morning, burning prayer carpets and holy books, and leaving behind Hebrew graffiti indicating the rampage was the work of settlers angry over the government's plan to curb settlement construction. The assailants entered the village before dawn, according to Israeli police and Munir Abushi. They burned prayer carpets and a book stand with Muslim holy texts, and left graffiti on the floor reading, "Price tag - greetings from Effi." "Price tag" is a term used by settlers either to denote retaliation for government decisions which curb settlement activity or in response to Palestinian attacks. No arrests were made, security officials said Saturday night, but the police and IDF were continuing to search for the perpetrators, suspected of being from nearby Israeli settlements, including Tapuah. After sweeping condemnations by Israeli, Palestinian and settler leaders on Saturday, ministers continued to denounce the attack on ahead of Sunday's cabinet meeting. Science Minister Prof. Daniel Herschkowitz told reporters that the act "deserves severe condemnation" and that "every faith must be respected." Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said the attack risked the "legitimacy of Jewish presence in Judea and Samaria" as well as "Israel's global standing." National Infrastructures Minister Uzi Landau said the arson "must be condemned with full force," urging law enforcement authorities to find the perpetrators and bring them to justice. However, Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein said that while he "definitely condemns the act," it shouldn't be "taken out of proportion." "Not a day passes when a synagogue around the world isn't firebombed or sprayed with swastikas, and I don't hear condemnations on the same level," he said. Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, the rabbi of the Western Wall and Holy sites in Israel, 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 synagogue 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." Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger also issued a condemnation of the attack. 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." The Anti-Defamation League also issued a statement of condemnation. "We are horrified and outraged by the acts of vandalism early this morning at a mosque in the West Bank that are believed to have been perpetrated by Jewish extremists. As Jews, we know all too well what it is like to have our houses of worship targeted by violence and hate," read the statement from the group's Israel office. "That Jewish extremists may have used such despicable methods to express political opposition is beyond the pale. We join with Israel's political, military and religious leadership in condemning this disgraceful assault," the statement added. The IDF said it would be on a heightened state of alert over the coming week in an effort to curb what some officers fear could turn into a spate of settler violence.