New Israel Fund Australia receives praise from Muslim leaders
Two senior Australian Muslims have lauded a Jewish group that condemned the burning of a mosque in northern Israel just after Rosh Hashanah, which triggered a mass petition of protest signed by 1000 rabbis, including several from Australia.
The New Israel Fund’s Australian president, Robin Margo, responded to the October 6 attack by sending out an email circular to the group’s database in Australia, saying: “Burning a mosque is wrong. It’s not Jewish. It’s especially horrible that it happened during the Ten Days of Repentance. We should be using this time to reflect and to improve the world, not to sow division or to desecrate our neighbours’ holy places.”
In response, the president of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Hyder Gulam, wrote to Mr Margo last Thursday thanking him for his “principled stance against the shocking events in [the Galilean village of] Tuba-Zangariya”.
Also on Thursday, Mohammed Elleissy, an ordained imam in Melbourne, wrote to Mr Margo saying how much he “appreciated” the work NIF is doing “with justice and integrity”.
Mr Gulam said in his message that he and Jewish Community Council of Victoria president John Searle “share your vision that Australia too should also be a place where our respective faiths and communities not only live side-by-side, but thrive, working in concert as part of a truly shared nation, which is our common home in Australia”.
The New Israel Fund, which promotes human rights and religious pluralism in Israel, also initiated last week a statement denouncing the torching that managed to accrue in under 24 hours the signatures of more than 1000 rabbis from around the world.
Among the signatories to the NIF-sponsored statement were many Progressive and Conservative rabbis and at least three Australian Orthodox rabbis: Caulfield Hebrew Congregation’s Rabbi Ralph Genende, Blake Street’s Rabbi Ian Goodhart and Gandel Besen House’s Rabbi Shamir Caplan.
“We condemn this act as an affront to G-d and to the values of our Torah,” said the statement. “We condemn those in Israel who exacerbate conflict and strife, and who insist that only one people or religion belongs to this land.”
The statement was presented last Thursday (October 6) by a delegation of dozens of rabbis and peace activists to the imam of Tuba-Zangria.
President Shimon Peres also visited the site, saying the attack was “un-Jewish, illegal, immoral and [it] brings heavy shame on us”.
David Rosenn, the chief operating officer of NIF and a Conservative rabbi, called the mosque arson “a flagrant challenge to Jewish history and values”.
Police arrested a suspect who, according to The Associated Press, was identified by his lawyer as “an 18-year-old seminary student with ties to one of the most hardline Jewish settlements in the West Bank”. A second suspect, also reportedly a settler, was arrested this week.