About 3000 mourners from all over Israel gathered at the ancient Jewish cemetery here today to witness ritual Burial rites for Sifrei Torahs, prayer books and other religious artifacts mutilated and desecrated by Arab rioters in the Machpela Cave (Patriarchs Tomb) Sunday. Israel’s two Chief Rabbis. Shlomo Goren and Ovadia Yosef, officiated at the ceremonies which were marked by controlled emotions and passed without incident.
The attendance was far smaller than anticipated by the Orthodox residents of nearby Kiryat Arba and the Gush Emunim who had anticipated a turnout of at least 10,000. Military sources estimated the assemblage at less than a third of that number. Hebron remained under strict curfew for the fourth consecutive day. There were no restrictions in Kiryat Arba.
The funeral procession was headed by the two Chief Rabbis, Defense Minister Shimon Peres, Religious Affairs Minister Yitzhak Raphael and Welfare Minister Zevulun Hammer. Ranking army officers, including Chief of Staff Gen. Mordechai Gur attended, as did Gen. (Res.) Ariel Sharon, the founder of Likud. Likud leader Menachem Beigin and two Likud MKs, Geula Cohen and Ehud Olmert, were also present.
Many of the dignitaries left after the burial when Rabbi Moshe Levinger, the leader of Kiryat Arba and the Gush Emunim, mounted a podium to accuse the government of responsibility for the tension between Jews and Arabs in Hebron. Levinger had not been scheduled to speak. The microphone went dead but he continued to talk on.
CABINET DEFERS DETAILED DISCUSSION
Meanwhile in Jerusalem, the Cabinet met briefly to discuss the incidents at Hebron but deferred a more detailed discussion until a future session. Premier Yitzhak Rabin said that there would be no change in the status quo in Hebron until the Cabinet thoroughly reviews the situation there. It was also reported that special police investigators would conduct an intensive and impartial probe of the incidents “to locate the guilty ones of both sides who were responsible for the disruption of law and order.”
Rabin stressed that the government’s objective is to cool tempers in Hebron and Kiryat Arba. “Above all it is essential that a confrontation between the two religions be averted,” he said.
The Machpela Cave, a shrine to both Jews and Moslems, remained closed on orders of the Military Government as repairs were made to remove traces of Sunday’s violence. It is expected to be reopened in a few days when, hopefully, tempers will have cooled. Security sources said they did not expect any radical changes to be made in the time-sharing arrangements whereby Jews and Moslems worship at the shrine at different hours. Kiryat Arba leaders had demanded that the government bar Moslems from the cave until after the Succoth festival and then reconsider the issue of time-sharing.
The government was reported to be considering the permanent stationing of tough border police units in Hebron to replace the regular soldiers who had failed to prevent violence by Arab and Jewish extremists.
(In New York today, the Rabbinical Council of America condemned the desecrations. Rabbi Walter S. Wurzburger, Council President, and Rabbi Sol Roth, chairman of its Israel Commission, cabled Rabin urging the Israeli government “to take all necessary steps to protect the rights of Jewish citizens and to safeguard their house of worship.” They also demanded the government “demonstrate to its Arab citizens that they must obey the laws and that terrorism will not be sanctioned.”)
There will be no Bulletin dated Oct. 11 due to Columbus Day a postal holiday.
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.