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      Chief Rabbis Condemn Mosque Fire, Say It May be Libel

      Israel's chief rabbis condemn anti-Muslim acts while visiting burnt Tuba Zangria mosque. Rabbi Amar: Arson may be a blood libel.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 10/3/2011, 8:35 PM

      Metzger, Amar and Peres Visit Mosque
      Metzger, Amar and Peres Visit Mosque
      Kobi Gideon/Flash90

      Israel's chief rabbis, Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Rabbi Yonah Metzger, condemned the suspected arson of a mosque in the village of Tuba Zangria on Monday.

      Rabbi Amar, however, also noted that blood libels were begun when Christians killed a non-Jewish child and planted the body near the Jewish quarter. He recommended that the police check whether the arson was perpetrated by Moslems trying to stir up trouble.

      The rabbis accompanied Israeli President Shimon Peres to survey the burnt mosque as a part of an ecumenical delegation consisting of Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Druze religious leaders. During the visit the rabbis expressed their opposition to all violence against religions. 

      "I and my fellow religious leaders are crying out for the police, if they have the alleged criminal in custody, to prosecute the perpetrator to the full extent the law allows," Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar said. "This is blasphemy, a desecration of the State of Israel, and a desecration of all peoples and religions."

      "We all have to speak loudly against terrorism,” Rabbi Amar added, finishing with the prayer "He makes peace on high."

      Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger said the Jewish people's persecution for its own religious beliefs had had sensitized them in their attitude to other faiths.

      "Seventy years ago they burned synagogues and Torah scrolls," Rabbi Metzger said. "We cannot accept this happening to any other religion. The mosque as a house of worship is an Embassy of God. It must not be harmed."

      The two chief rabbis’ statements echo those of Rabbi Chaim Druckman, who earlier on Monday, condemned so-called 'price tag' attacks, which many have assumed are behind the mosque fire.

      "All actions if undertaken under the headline 'Price Tag' are horrible, shocking, anti-Jewish and immoral," Rabbi Druckman said.

      Rabbinic condemnation of violence targeting religious sanctuaries and texts has been widespread following the Zangria mosque fire.

      Earlier Monday police announced they several suspects in custody, but have not revealed their identities or established their guilt. The investigation is ongoing.

      For his part, President Shimon Peres immediately asked local Sheikh Muammad Ciwan for forgiveness for the suspected arson.

      "I am full of shame and disgrace on the odious act," Peres said. "I came here, saw the mosque burnt and I'm shaken to the core. This is blasphemy and we will not tolerate this abomination. I believe that there is not one Israeli who is not ashamed to face the fire in the mosque. This heinous act is not only against the law, it is against Judaism, morality and spirit."