Palestine Jewry’s Appeal to the Arabs By Our Jerusalem Correspondent
A short while ago there occurred in Jerusalem a distressing event, which wounded the hearts of Jews throughout the world, reads the open letter addressed to the Moslem Community of Palestine published here today by the Vaad Leumi, National Council of Palestine Jews. On the Day of Atonement, which is sacred to Jews and which is also respected by Moslems as the Ashura Fast, at a time when the Jews, according to their religious rites and ancient custom, were praying at the Kothel Maaravi, the remnant of the Wall of the holy and venerated Temple of King Solomon, Peace be upon him, members of the Police forcibly intervened and disturbed the order of the religious service by removing a linen screen which had been temporarily erected to separate men from women in accordance with Jewish religious rites. The intervention of the Police in consequence of certain Moslem representations, aroused strong indignation and bitterness throughout Jewry, and brought about a general protest from all parts of Palestine as well as from abroad, together with the just demand that conditions be arranged ensuring the free exercise of Jewish worship at that site in a manner worthy of and consistent with its sanctity.
Following upon this incident legends, distortions of fact and calumnies which have been denied years ago, were resuscitated and circulated among the public, in order to represent and describe the conflict relative to the Wailing Wall as a general attack of the Jews on Moslem Holy Places.
We, herewith, declare emphatically and sincerely that no Jew has ever thought of encroaching upon the rights of Moslems over their own Holy Places, but our Arab brethren should also recognize the rights of Jews in regard to the places in Palestine which are holy to them.
Now the Kothel Maaravi is a vestige of the Wall of the Temple which remained untouched, and from which the “Shechina” (God’s Presence) has never departed. The Kothel Maaravi has always been a place of worship for Jewish pilgrims from Palestine and abroad. This right of freedom of worship at the Holy Places was not withheld from us by the Roman Conquerors. It was also recognized by the first Caliphs and by the kings of the Ummeyad Dynasty, by Salah Eddin A1-Ayubi, by the Mameluks and by the Ottoman Sultans even at a time when access to the Wall was forbidden by Moslem rulers to people of other faiths.
Arab, Jewish and Christian historians give detailed accounts of the support extended to Moslem conquerors by Jews, both by active military participation, and in other respects. The Caliphs and the kings of the Ummeyad Dynasty re-established the rights of the Jews particularly in regard to liberty of worship at their Holy Places.
Throughout the rule of the Arab kings, the Jews continued to enjoy these rights, which were confirmed with additional force upon the conquest of the country by the Sultan Selim.
The Kothel Maaravi which is sacred to the Jews throughout generations, has in practice been a place of worship and pilgrimage, free from all restriction or interference. It is clear that the Jewish people are not ready to make any concession in respect of this right, sanctified for generations, and that any attempt to abolish or restrict this right and to interfere in the established arrangement for the conduct of prayers will be regarded as a serious offence and a grave insult against the Jewish Nation. It is also clear that if the desire of the Jews to pray at that place peacefully, honorably and without any restriction be misrepresented as the establishment of a strategic platform for an attack against the Moslem Mosques within the Haram Area, this can only be the fruit of false imagination or wilful calumny. The effect of such calumny is to disturb and trouble the minds of the people, and to stir up enmity and dispute between two sister nations. This can only bring misfortune to both sides and profit neither.
Our sincere desire to build up and restore our country in harmony with our Arab brethren, impels us to proclaim the truth, that we are engaged in no fight against our neighbors, nor in designs upon Moslem Holy Places, but are pressing a natural demand that Jewish rights should be respected.
We call upon our Arab brethren in general, and their responsible leaders in particular, to disperse the poisonous clouds of the false rumors which have recently been circulated, and to create possibilities for constructive co-operation for the benefit of the country and all its inhabitants, in place of hostility and dispute, the appeal concludes.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.