Sunday, June 10, 2007

Jewish Vandals on the rampage

Things turned ugly this weekend when a crowd of 1300 Jewish worshippers came out to pray at the grave of the biblical leader, Joshua (Yehoshua Bin-Nun), located in Kifl Harith. They did not exactly act like the Good Samaritans from whom the region takes its Zionist name, Samaria. (The world knows the place as the Occupied West Bank, and violence between Jewish settlers and Arabs has flared there sporadically for the past 20 years.)

According to the Israeli Defence Forces, who were ordered to give protection to the religious crowd, nine ancient Islamic tombstones were desecrated, either by upending them or with spraypaint. The slogan "Death to Arabs" was scrawled across some graves-- rather redundant considering the circumstances. The Muslim denizens of the graveyard already were.

The organizers of the Jewish prayer service promised to repair the damage this week, according to the Jerusalem Post, and the army was informed that "only a small group decided to cause a provocation." Otherwise, it reported that the groups' actions were "appropriate to a holy place." The little news item was buried inside the newspaper on page four. Had it been Muslims desecrating Jewish tombs, surely the article would have been splashed across the front page and led local newscasts. But this act of aggressive Jewish intolerance in a holy place is not so unusual; it hardly is as rare as "Man Bites Dog."

Inside Jerusalem, on the edge of the Walled City, vandalism has become part of the modus operandi for Yeshiva students who normally would devote their time to studying the Torah. A thuggish group called the Diaspora Yeshiva, funded from abroad, has been trying to expand their property on Mt Zion by harassing neighbours--both secular Jews and Christians--in hopes that they will feel intimidated and sell out.

The students recently hurled boulders onto the patio of a middle-aged potter-cum-cafe owner, damaging his renovations and some priceless antiques. When the physically fit artist gave chase, eight of the youths tackled him and tried to break his thumb. The police did nothing when the potter filed a complaint. He is determined to open his tourist cafe on Mt Zion in spite of all the aggro.

Now the nuns at the Church of the Dormition are cowering, too, fearful that the religious thugs may lust after their property next. Jerusalemites are pretty phlegmatic about the Diaspora Yeshiva, which has gained local notoriety. "Everyone knows these guys used to be junkies and pushers. Their gangster behavior is the same even after they find religion," shrugged one father of three. Rehabilitation of substance abusers through Torah study is an admirable goal, and there's no lack of foreign donors for worthy Jewish projects like this. But outsiders must choose the recipients with care, because there's no telling what religious vigilantes might get up to.

A few years ago, members of this Yeshiva decided to assert their values on secular neighbours. To ensure that drivers would observe the Sabbath in this holy district, they strung a wire across the only road on Mt Zion. A Jewish motorcyclist, taking his usual route home, was beheaded after twilight when he hit the wire going 40 kilometers per hour. This tragic accident could have been avoided with a little cooperation. Jews beheading Jews in the name of religion beggars belief.

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