Chief rabbi visits vandalized mosque


JERUSALEM (JTA) — An Israeli chief rabbi visited the West Bank village where a mosque was vandalized.

Rabbi Yona Metzger visited the village of Yasuf on Monday under the protection of the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian police. Palestinian protesters hit Metzger, the chief Ashkenazi rabbi, with rocks as he left the village. 

 "I came here to expression my revulsion at this wretched act of burning a place holy to the Muslim people," Metzger said, Ha’aretz reported. "This is how the Holocaust began, the tragedy of the Jewish people of Europe."

 Vandals assumed to be extremist settlers raided a mosque in the village of Yasuf before dawn Dec. 11, burning furniture, prayer rugs and holy texts and defacing the mosque’s walls, according to reports. One graffiti read "Price tag — greetings from Effi." Effi is a Hebrew name and "price tag" refers to the strategy extremist settlers have adopted to exact a price in attacks on Palestinians in retribution for settlement freezes.

Metzger’s visit came a day after a delegation of rabbis and Israelis from the West Bank tried to enter the village to help refurbish the mosque and to deliver copies of the Koran to replace the Muslim holy books burned in the attack. The group from Gush Etzion, which is south of Jerusalem, was detained at a checkpoint, where they met with village elders, according to reports.

Also Monday, village residents threw rocks at Israeli army patrols.

Meanwhile, Jewish organizations condemned the attack over the weekend.

 “This hate crime has correctly been condemned by the full political and religious spectrum of Israeli society," said Simon Wiesenthal Center founder and dean Rabbi Marvin Hier, and associate dean Abraham Cooper, in a statement. "This ugly act violates the precepts of Judaism and the people of Israel’s commitment to freedom of religion for all.”

"We condemn the reported acts of vandalism, in which Israelis are alleged to have entered a mosque and set fire to its carpet, destroyed holy objects and wrote hateful graffiti messages on the walls," Stephen Savitsky and Rabbi Steven Weil, president and executive vice president of the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, said in a statement. "There is no justification for such actions."

"Jewish synagogues and holy sites, in Israel and across the globe, have been similarly vandalized and desecrated over the course of history and, thus, Jews should know very well that such actions are beyond the pale," the OU statement continued.

The Israel office of the Anti-Defamation League also condemned the attack, saying it was "horrified and outraged by the acts of vandalism … 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."

"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."

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