An arson attack on a Palestinian home on July 31 in Duma that killed 18-month-old Ali Dawabsheh and injured three other family members brought Jewish and Muslim leaders together on Monday to pray for the victims.
Ahmad Dawabsha, Ali’s 4-year-old brother, and his parents, Saad and Reham, are in critical condition with third degree burns and are being treated at Israel’s Sheba Medical Center.
A delegation of Jewish and Muslim leaders, led by former Israeli government minister Rabbi Michael Melchior, Rabbi Rafi Feurstein and Rabbi David Stav gathered outside the hospital’s Pediatric Critical Care Unit to pray for Ahmad. Senior members of the Islamic Movement were also present along with Rabbi Aryeh Stern, Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.
The group met with Ahmad’s grandfather and reiterated their solidarity with the family. “We represent many rabbis and none of us are willing to stand silent in the face of such a desperate act of evil,” Rabbi Stern told him, according to a press release.
Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the Tzohar Rabbinic Organization and Chief Rabbi of the Israeli town of Shoham, said his message to Ahmad’s grandfather was one of condolence as well as remorse.
“We believe we have the right to live in the land of Israel, but we don't want to pay the price of killing and burning a child in order to fulfill that vision of living in Israel,” Stav told The Huffington Post.
Stav condemned the attack, saying the perpetrators had damaged the international community’s view of Israel and the legitimacy of the country’s settlements.
“The biggest damage that could be done to the settlements in Judea and Samaria is killing innocent children,” Stav said. “We were so proud that Jews were not the enemy, but that image was destroyed a little bit in this terrible event.”
The Dawabsha family's brick and cement home was destroyed in Friday’s fire, and a Jewish Star of David was spray-painted on a wall beside the words "revenge" and "long live the Messiah.” Authorities also found the words "price tag" on the walls, referencing a term used by radical Israeli settlers to denote attacks on Palestinians in response to the Israeli government’s attempts to evacuate illegal West Bank outposts.
The arson attack sparked clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops during which one 17-year-old Palestinian youth, Laith Fadel Khaldi, was shot and killed. Hamas, a Palestinian Islamist movement, was quoted by the AFP as saying the arsonattack "makes the occupier's soldiers and settlers legitimate targets everywhere.”
Israeli authorities arrested Meir Ettinger, grandson of U.S.-born ultranationalist Rabbi Meir Kahane, on Monday in a crackdown on Jewish extremism in the wake of Friday’s attack. The Shin Bet security agency said the 23-year-old was arrested for "involvement in an extremist Jewish organization" but did not mention whether he was a suspect.
Jewish leaders and commentators around the world have condemned the arson attack, as well as the stabbing that occurred the following day at Jerusalem’s gay pride festival. Both incidents shine a light on the extremist strains that exist in Israel and which many Jews want to distance themselves from.
“How men who consider themselves religious Jews can so grossly violate the core principles of the Jewish religion is beyond me,” wrote Rabbi Jason Miller in a blog on HuffPost following the attacks.
It is both shocking and embarrassing that these extremists cite my Torah as the blueprint for their brutality. If we Jewish people are to call on Muslims to rail against Islamic extremism, then we in the Jewish community must heed our own call.
Stav emphasized that Jews and Muslims must work together to heal the rift between Israelis and Palestinians. The infant’s death may have had one silver lining, he said, by bringing leaders together across religious lines to realize the human costs of the conflict.
“We have to realize we were sent by God to live in this land together and that nobody is going to disappear in this next couple of years,” he said. “We have no choice but to think and sit down together.”
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