JERUSALEM –A group of hundreds of prominent Israeli rabbis today issued a statement calling Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s recent actions “anti-Jewish” and “hostile to Judaism.”
The rabbis were referring to a series of moves the past week in which the prime minister directed his security forces to bulldoze a synagogue near Judaism’s third holiest site, destroy another synagogue near Judaism’s second holiest site, boot a rabbi and his mobile yeshiva from Hebron – the world’s oldest Jewish city – and forcibly remove two Jewish families from a Hebron Jewish market.
Olmert’s actions are “anti-Jewish and hostile to Judaism in spite of the fact that he speaks Hebrew and dwells in the Land of the Patriarchs,” read a statement by the Rabbinical Congress for Peace, a coalition of more than 350 Israeli rabbinic leaders and pulpit rabbis.
One of the synagogues destroyed this week was constructed so Jews can pray at Joseph’s Tomb, Judaism’s third holiest site, believed to be the burial place of the biblical patriarch Joseph – the son of Jacob who was sold by his brothers into slavery and later became the viceroy of Egypt.
The other synagogue, the mobile yeshiva and the two Jewish families were located near Hebron’s Tomb of the Patriarchs, the second holiest site in Judaism and the believed resting place of the biblical patriarchs and matriarchs Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca and Leah.
The rabbis commented: “Our Sages tell us that there are three places in Israel that absolutely no one can contest its legal Jewish ownership because the Bible clearly records the sale and purchase of these places by Jews.
One is the area around the Cave of the Patriarchs as written in Genesis 23:16-18: “And Abraham weighed out to Ephron the money that he had mentioned … four hundred silver shekalim in negotiable currency. And Ephron’s field … and the cave within it and all the trees in the field, within all its surrounding boundaries, was confirmed as Abraham’s purchase.”
The second place is Joseph’s Tomb; as written in Genesis 33:19, “For one hundred kesitah. … And Jacob bought the parcel of the field … from the children of Hamor.”
The third is the Temple Mount; as recorded in Chronicles 1: 21:25, “David gave Ornan for the place gold shekels weighing six hundred.”
“How ironic and painful it is that precisely these three places that the nations of the world never thought of wresting from Jews, the Jews by their own volition give it up and say it belongs to the Arabs,” the rabbis said.
The rabbis reference to the Temple Mount was in response to rules imposed by the Israeli government that restrict non-Muslim visits to the site to certain hours on weekdays and deem illegal any Jewish or Christian prayer on the site. Muslims visits to the Temple Mount are largely unrestricted, and they can pray in any of the site’s major mosques.
Olmert’s government earlier this week mobilized 3,000 soldiers who forcibly evicted two Jewish families from a Jewish market in Hebron.
The government maintains the families’ residency in Hebron was illegal, since their arrival wasn’t coordinated with the Israeli military. The families say they moved in after the military reneged on an agreement.
The families’ eviction was widely regarded in Israel as the opening salvo of more planned major evacuations of Jews living in the West Bank’s biblical Jewish communities.
The structure, now converted to small, two-story apartments, was built in 1929 after Arab riots temporarily forced Jews from Hebron – the first time the city was without a Jewish presence in over 2,500 years. For more than 30 years, a sign was posted on the market boasting in Arabic that the structure was built on stolen Jewish property.
Arab merchants illegally set up shop at the market but were asked by the Israel Defense Forces to leave after a series of clashes broke out in the mid-1990s. Even though the market was stolen by the Arabs, Hebron’s Jewish community purchased the market from its original Arab occupants in 2001.
In January 2006, Jewish families took up occupancy to strengthen Jewish ties to the area following the murder of an infant by a Palestinian sniper, yards away from the market.
The market, integrated within the Hebron Jewish community, is adjacent to several Jewish apartments and Jewish municipal buildings. It is not located in an Arab neighborhood. It doesn’t require any additional protection from IDF soldiers already patrolling the area.
Despite the original property owners’ recent signing over of the market to Hebron’s Jewish community, as well as Israel’s Supreme Court ruling that the structure was Jewish-owned, the government considers the occupancy of the marketplace illegal, saying families living inside did not negotiate their arrival with the IDF.
Following a standoff with the army last year, the Jews who had moved into the market decided to leave, reportedly after receiving promises from military officials they could return a few months later, after the court systems – which deemed the property Jewish – worked with the IDF to verify the legality of the Jewish residence.
But Israel’s attorney general overturned the Supreme Court decision and declared the residents cannot move in.
Still, two Jewish families recently moved back. Israeli security forces removed them Monday.
Aside from evicting the two Jewish families, Israeli forces, acting on orders from the government, destroyed a synagogue in the area, since the structure was not built with a government permit. Israel also ordered a rabbi out of Hebron because his mobile yeshiva was not
Last week, Israeli forces also destroyed a synagogue near Joseph’s Tomb, Judaism’s third holiest site, since that synagogue, like the one in Hebron, was built without a government permit.
While rampant illegal construction in Arab sections of Hebron remains largely unregulated, the Israeli government strictly enforces construction regulations in the city’s Jewish sections, which are cordoned off to about 25 percent of Hebron’s territory; the rest of Hebron is Arab.
Olmert’s decision to single out for evacuation two Jewish families living in Jewish sections of Hebron has been called into question by religious leaders here.
WND previously revealed the Israeli government has allowed Palestinians and the United Nations to build illegally on hundreds of acres of Jewish-owned lands in Jerusalem purchased by the Jewish National Fund, a U.S.-based Jewish organization, using Jewish donors funds solicited for the purpose of Jewish settlement. Tens of thousands of Palestinians live on the Jewish-owned Jerusalem land, which was recently isolated from Jewish sections of Jerusalem by Israel’s security barrier.
WND also previously reported the city of Jerusalem, under orders from Olmert, deleted files documenting hundreds of illegal Arab building projects throughout eastern sections of Jerusalem housing tens of thousands of Palestinians, according to a report by the Jerusalem Forum, which promotes Jewish construction in the city.
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