Israeli delegation visits vandalized Jaba mosque

Tag Meir, Rabbis for Human rights makes solidarity visit to West Bank mosque hit by "price tag" arsonists.

Jaba Mayor Abdal Kariam Bisharat 370 (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Jaba Mayor Abdal Kariam Bisharat 370
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
“I just want to say how horrified, how ashamed I am,” Jerusalem councilwoman Laura Wharton said as she stood on Thursday outside the mosque in Jaba, near Ramallah, which was vandalized by Jewish extremists two days earlier.
“I want to apologize as an Israeli and a Jew,” she said.
The short, brown-haired woman traveled to Jaba, along with members of Rabbis for Human Rights and a group called Tag Meir, to express her horror and to show the villagers that there were people in Israel who condemned such violence.
She briefly poured out her heart in English to Mayor Abdal Kariam Bisharat, who wore a white keffiyeh and a gray suit. Her hand on her heart, Wharton told him she was among the “quiet majority” in Israel “who really wants peace.”
He listened, nodded, and responded.
“We accept your condemnation and your personal apology,” he said.
“We hope that you and people like are the real face of Israelis, and we hope that you and people like you struggle as much as you can to stop similar actions,” he said.
Bisharat showed the small group of visitors the spot where vandals had shattered a mosque window, to light a fire in a small corner of the structure.
Glass shards littered the burned red carpet. The inside wall was covered with black smoke stains.
On the mosque’s exterior stone wall, vandals had spray-painted the words, “Price tag,” a term coined by Jewish extremists to describe acts of vandalism against Palestinian property, in retribution for security forces’ demolitions of settler homes.
The vandals also spray-painted the words “Ulpana war,” in reference to the slated evacuation of five apartment buildings in the Ulpana outpost on the outskirts of the Beit El settlement by July 1.
Jaba sits on a hill overlooking Route 60, right behind the Rami Levi supermarket in the Sha’ar Binyamin industrial zone and not far from Beit El.
The mosque is perched on the side of a hill, from where it is possible to see the site by the Psagot winery where construction crews are placing modular homes for the 50 families in the Migron outpost, which is due for evacuation by August 1.
Bisharat said that it was the desecration of place of worship that upset him the most.
“This is a holy site,” he said.
The vandalism “is an attack on our religion... It is a declaration of war against the Palestinian inhabitants of Jaba or any other village,” Bisharat said.
Villager Muhammad Bisharat said that what worried him was the children in the community, some of whom had come to the mosque and crowded around the visitors. They held up signs from the Tag Meir group, which was created six months ago, and operates in all of Israel, including in the West Bank, against acts of racial, ethnic or religious hatred.
One sign said, “Spread the light, together against terror.”
Another read, “We welcome you in peace.”
“These kids here, they would never know they were under occupation if this did not happen,” Muhammad Bisharat said.
His voice rose in anger as he spoke. “Those idiots who did this, will make these kids grow up with this in their memory.”
Rabbi Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights brought copies of the Koran as a present for the mosque’s worshipers. He said that such a desecration of a holy place was an “attack against God.”
The vandals were trying to fan religious conflict and hatred, he said.
“We think that it is important to say as rabbis, ‘Not in our name,’” Ascherman said.