Jewish peace activists from Israel’s Judea region held a demonstration on Tuesday against the desecration of a mosque in the Arab community of Beit Fajar near the ancient Judean city of Bethlehem. The protest, organized by the Eretz Shalom (Land of Peace) organization, condemned the act of vandalism and called for an improvement in relations between local Arab and Jewish residents.
As part of the event, a delegation of six local rabbis, led by Rabbi Menahem Froman, delivered a box of Korans to the Beit Fajar mosque which had been spray-painted and torched by unknown vandals. Although most media outlets have insinuated that the vandals were local Jews, no arrests have yet been made.
Eretz Shalom is a group of Jewish activists primarily from the Judea region who work together with their Arab neighbors in efforts to achieve a genuine grassroots peace that would circumvent the international community’s agenda of expelling all ethnic Jews from Judea and forcing all local Arabs to live under the Western-backed Palestinian Authority.
The peace activists brought around a dozen copies of the Koran on a solidarity visit to the mosque in Beit Fajar and were reportedly warmly welcomed by the local community leaders. Several hundred Arabs cheered as the rabbis arrived in two Land Rovers accompanied by Israeli soldiers.
The Eretz Shalom delegation was met by the mosque’s imam and Bethlehem governor Abdul Fatah Hamayel, who gave them a tour of the damaged mosque and showed them the remains of several Korans which were burnt in the blaze.
“We welcome the Jews to Beit Fajar so they can see with their own eyes the crime that was committed in this mosque, which was against humanity and against religion,” Hamayel told reporters. “We welcome this delegation which is bringing a message of peace.”
After talking with residents and examining the damage, Froman, who comes from the nearby Jewish community of Tekoa, held hands with a Muslim cleric as they raised copies of the Koran in the air.
“My belief is in peace and in God,” the white-bearded rabbi told reporters. “Those who act against peace act against God. God will defeat those who do things like this.”
Muslims at the event expressed a similar sentiment.
“We are all from the same family and we must live as good neighbors,” said Abed Farajallah, an Arab from the nearby town of Idhna.
Zvi Richman, a resident of the nearby Jewish village of Kfar Eldad, praised the Eretz Shalom activity and told Indy News Israel that if in fact the perpetrators of the anti-Muslim attack are Jewish, then the answer to preventing future incidents is education.
“With all that goes on here its understandable that frustrated youth would resort to such acts,” he said. “But ultimately actions like these are misguided and counterproductive. The Jews and Arabs who live here are both victims of Western interests in the region. Instead of fighting each other we should be coming together in unison against our common enemies.”
Elyakim Levanon, an influential rabbi from northern Samaria and a former leader of the ‘Orange’ resistance against the 2005 expulsion of Gazan Jews from their homes, also condemned the attack on the Beit Fajar mosque. In an interview with Voice of Israel radio Tuesday, Levanon said mosques and Muslims “are not the enemy.”
“I do not justify, and I totally condemn these activities,” Levanon continued, adding that police searching for the attackers should be just as diligent in tracking down Arabs who attack Jews.
The rabbi also pointed out that the attack on the mosque “is not the Jewish way” and that there is no conclusive evidence that Jews were even involved, noting that anti-Israel activists from Western countries have previously provoked incidents that “appeared to be against Arabs but which in reality were staged to incriminate Jews.”