Haredi magazine begs terrorists: Don't murder us

Outrage as major haredi paper publishes letter in Arabic and Hebrew, saying haredim shouldn't be targeted as they don't visit Temple Mount.

Ari Soffer , | updated: 12:23 PM

Haredi Jews walk close to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
Haredi Jews walk close to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
Garrett Mills/Flash 90

A prominent haredi publication has raised eyebrows with an open letter in Hebrew and Arabic begging Arab terrorists not to attack haredi Jews, by highlighting the fact that most haredim do not visit the Temple Mount.

The letter was published in the haredi weekly Mishpacha Magazine this morning (Thursday), penned by Mishpacha's Deputy Editor, Aryeh Ehrlich.

It comes after a month of escalated, daily terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and security forces by Palestinians. False rumors that Israel is planning to "change the status quo" on the Temple Mount to allow Jewish prayer have been used as a pretext by many attackers, as well as featuring prominently in propaganda calling for more attacks - despite the fact that Israel has made great effort to clarify that it has no such intention.

Among the many civilian victims haredi Jews have been disproportionately targeted - a fact recently highlighted by Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan, who relaxed gun licensing rules in part to allow "haredi teachers" to apply for weapons to defend themselves.

The primary reason for this is quickly apparent upon examining the violently anti-Semitic propaganda spurring the current wave of terrorist attacks: Palestinian incitement, both now and prior to the recent wave of attacks, usually features crude stereotypes of black-hatted Jews to illustrate "the Jewish enemy."

"We, the haredi community, have no cause in ascending the Temple Mount at this time. We are strongly opposed," the letter says, in both Arabic and Hebrew.

It goes on to note that in the view of most major haredi rabbis visits to the Temple Mount - Judaism's holiest site - are forbidden under Jewish law due to concerns over possible breaches of the laws of ritual purity, and that as a result the vast majority of haredim do not visit the Mount. It added that only "one lone (haredi) family, who act in accordance with their own views, and has earned condemnations for their actions" takes part in the frequent Jewish visits to the site - a reference to hassidic Temple Mount activist Rabbi Yoseph Elboim.

"So if you have any solid information about the intentions of Israel to change the status-quo regarding the Dome of the Rock (sic) - which is not the case in our opinion - it has no connection to the haredi community. So please, stop murdering us."

Jewish visits to the Temple Mount is the subject of fierce halakhic debate. Some rabbis rule that it is forbidden on the basis that it is unclear which parts of the holy site are permitted to be trodden upon in a state of ritual impurity, whereas others rule that there is a clear tradition delineating permissible areas, and that as the holiest site in Judaism it is in fact an imperative for Jews to make pilgrimages there.

Despite its holy status Jews and other non-Muslims are forbidden from praying there by Israeli authorities upon the demand of Muslim groups.

The letter has already drawn protests on social media and elsewhere, with objections to both its craven tone and the inference that other Jews would however be legitimate targets.

Some outraged commenters on haredi websites asked whether Ehrlich was implying terrorists should attack non-haredi Jews.

Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan (Jewish Home), reacted strongly to the letter as well.

In a sardonic tweet directed towards Ehrlich, Ben-Dahan relayed a "message" from Hamas.

"Hamas spokesman Sami Abu-Zuhri sends a message: Your objections have been received. You requested not to murder haredim, so he asks for the addresses of national-religious and secular Jews in order to murder them."

Rabbi Ben-Dahan is himself from the national-religious community and has fought for the right of Jews to pray on the Temple Mount despite personally ascribing to the opinions of those rabbis who discourage it, arguing that both opinions are legitimate and Muslim violence should not be allowed to curb civil liberties on Judaism's holiest site.

In an effort to diffuse the controversy, Ehrlich posted a 5-part response on Twitter, admitting that the post was "naive" but claiming his intention was only to "tear the away the mask from the murderous Palestinian aggression which has been going on for decades, and to neutralize the false Islamic incitement."