Israel rabbis meeting yesterday in Tel Aviv

TEL AVIV – A group of hundreds of prominent Israeli rabbis yesterday called on Jews worldwide to speak out against what rabbinic leaders called the “crime of dividing Jerusalem as proposed by the current Israeli government.”

The move follows a flurry of media reports that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is contemplating handing over sections of Jerusalem to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah organization.

Yesterday Olmert hinted he would be willing to divide Jerusalem, asking during a speech whether it was “really necessary” to retain certain Arab neighborhoods in Judaism’s capital.

At a Tel Aviv press conference yesterday, leaders of the Rabbinical Congress for Peace, a coalition of more than 350 Israeli rabbinic leaders and pulpit rabbis, including some of Israel’s most prominent Jewish leaders, urged Jews worldwide to speak out.

“We must scream and protest not only to go through the motions, but maybe our protest will bring another one in its chain and awaken the public,” said RCP leader Rabbi David Drukman, the rabbinic leader of the Kiryat Motzkin Israeli community.

“It pains us to see that there is no public outcry against this; everyone is complacent,” Drukman said at the press conference.

Rabbi Meir Horowitz, leader of the Hassidic Bostoner community and a U.S. citizen, addressed U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice directly:

“Madam Secretary, we request that you convey to President Bush and to the leaders of the civilized world that although Jerusalem is also holy to the three great faiths of the world, for the Jewish people it is our only holy city; therefore, no one can expect the Jewish people to forgo the central theme and focus of their religion.”

Rabbi Avrohom Yaakov Shreiber, who was the rabbinic leader of Kfar Darom, one of the largest Gaza Strip Jewish communities evacuated by Israel in 2005, pointed out that while most Jewish expulsions throughout history were perpetuated by non-Jews, he was “stunned” the Jewish state would “expel their brothers from their homes.”

Meir Porush, a nationalist Knesset Member, called Jerusalem “the soul of the nation and just like a man cannot live without a soul, so we cannot live without Jerusalem.”

Rabbi Gerlitzky, chairman of the Rabbinical Congress, commented, “It has been several months now that the government has been discussing dividing Jerusalem, but it was done quietly behind our back. Now when it came out in the open, there is no outcry. I feel as though the public has been sprayed with some kind of sleeping gas.”

A Rabbinic Congress resolution, passed at yesterday’s meeting, urged the Olmert government to “come back to your senses.”

“The Congress calls on the government to abandon the ‘land for peace’ formula. It never worked in the past, it doesn’t work now and will never work in the future. This formula is obsolete, outdated, leads to bloodshed.”

The rabbis’ statements followed a speech yesterday in which Olmert asked whether it was “really necessary” for Israel to control Arab neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

Last week, Vice Premier Haim Ramon, a member of Olmert’s ruling Kadima party, mapped out a future partition of Jerusalem under a deal with the Palestinians.

Ramon reportedly wrote in a letter published by the Israeli media that under his plan, “The Jewish neighborhoods (of Jerusalem) will be recognized as Israeli and under Israeli sovereignty. Accordingly, the Arab neighborhoods will be recognized as Palestinian.”

Knesset Member Otniel Schneller, a Kadima party colleague of Olmert and Ramon known for his close relationship to the prime minister, claimed the plan violated Kadima’s platform.

But WND first reported in 2006 it was Schneller who first floated a Kadima plan for dividing Jerusalem.

“The Old City, Mount Scopus, the Mount of Olives, the City of David, Sheikh Jarra will remain in our hands, but [regarding] Kafr Akeb, Abu-Ram, Shuafat, Hizma, Abu-Zaim, Abu-Tur, Abu Dis, in the future, when the Palestinian state is established, they will become its capital,” said Schneller at the small Jerusalem debate in May 2006, covered by WND.

Days later, Schneller gave an interview to the Associated Press in which he stated “We will not divide Jerusalem, we will share it.”

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