West Bank rabbis visit vandalized mosque


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Rabbis from West Bank settlements visiting a vandalized mosque brought Korans to replace burned holy books.

Peace activist and Rabbi Menachem Froman of Tekoa led the delegation that arrived Tuesday in the Hebron-area village of Beit Fajar. It also included Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, head of the Har Etzion Yeshiva, and another rabbi from the yeshiva, Shlomo Brin; and Shlomo Riskin, chief rabbi of Efrat. The new copies of the Koran replaced those burned in the late Sunday night arson attack. 

The rabbis were under heavy security during the visit, escorted by Israeli officers and guarded by dozens of Palestinian policemen, according to reports.

"Our goal is to share our horror at the attack of the mosque and to clearly state that this is not the way of the Torah or the Jewish way," Brin said.

"This act does nothing for the settlements; it is morally and religiously wrong and is offensive to its core. This is not how we educated our children. Islam is not a hostile religion, even if we have a dispute with some of its followers."

Prayer rugs were burned in the attack and graffiti was spray-painted on the walls in Hebrew, including the words "revenge" and "price tag," referring to in-kind reprisal of Jews against Palestinians for attacks.

Palestinian villagers said they saw Jews enter the village and destroy the mosque. No arrests have been made.

It was the third Palestinian mosque to be torched, allegedly by settlers, in the past year.

The attack came as the United States continues to work to keep direct peace talks between the Palestinians and Israel going despite the end of a 10-month moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements.

The U.S. on Tuesday condemned the arson attack.

"We condemn this attack in the strongest terms and call for the perpetrators to be brought to justice," U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.

The Anti-Defamation League also condemned the attack. A statement released Tuesday by its Israel office said that "Political opposition should be expressed in peaceful and legal ways.”

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