Jerusalem seminary students visit Sheikh injured in attack

After pro-coexistence Sheikh attacked in Jerusalem, seminary students pay a solidarity visit.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Seminary students visit Sheikh in Rahat
Seminary students visit Sheikh in Rahat
Ohr Torah Stone’s Midreshet Lindenbaum

Amidst continuing tensions between Arabs and Jews focused around Jerusalem’s Old City, a group of students from Jerusalem's Midreshet Lindenbaum Seminary made a visit today to the southern Israeli home of Sheik Jamal al-Obra.

The Sheikh, Imam of Rahat, the predominantly Bedouin city in the Southern District of Israel, was the victim of an attack earlier in the week by a group of Israeli teens who cornered al-Obra and his wife and daughter who had come to Jerusalem to deliver a sermon calling for tolerance.

A well-known advocate who calls for peaceful co-existence between Arabs and Jews, the Sheikh had visited Midreshet Lindenbaum in late 2020 where he addressed the students on how both communities needed to be better educated so they can change their perceptions about the other.

Rabbi Ohad Teharlev, Director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Midreshet Lindenbaum, the Jewish studies seminary that serves young women from both Israel and the Diaspora, decided to make the visit immediately upon learning of the attack.

Rabbi Teharlev, whose son, Elchai, was killed in a terror attack in April 2017, said that humanity and tolerance are ideals that need to supersede national or even personal politics. “I am certainly right-wing in my views and believe strongly that Jews should live and build across Judea and Samaria. But as human beings and educators, we need to realize that compassion forces us to rise above those issues,” he explained. “When we heard that the Sheikh, a man we personally know to be of peace and understanding, had been violently attacked, we knew that the right thing to do was to come here to his home and express our solidarity with him and his family.”

In their meeting, the Sheikh recalled the attack which left him and his daughter lightly injured when they were pelted with rocks outside of Jerusalem’s Damascus Gate. Rabbi Teharlev said that he deeply empathized with the pain that the Sheikh was feeling and that the act perpetrated against him was nothing less than a terror attack committed by hooligans.

Accompanied by students from the seminary and Rabbi Yakov Nagen, Director of Ohr Torah Stone's Blickle Institute for Interfaith Dialogue and a friend of Sheikh al-Obra, Rabbi Teharlev said, “I firmly believe that these conversations between representatives of our communities is extremely important and I know that this dialogue can only serve to address the painful divisions which sadly exist in our society. My son, may his memory be blessed, used to say that violence will never be defeated with violence and I am hopeful that our visit here today helps spread that message.”

Following the visit to his home, Sheikh al-Obra brought the students to see the program and classes he and his wife established for senior women’s education as well as the local mosque which includes a special section for women. The experience left a very strong impression on the students from Midreshet Lindenbaum, known for its groundbreaking work in female religious study and scholarship.

British-born Dahlia Cohen, 19, moved with her family to Raanana in 2006 and is now a student in the Hadas pre-army program at Midreshet Lindenbaum. She described the trip as truly memorable saying, “These types of interfaith dialogues unfortunately don’t happen enough so the chance to hear the Sheikh’s perspective was inspiring to realize that after all that he’s experienced he’s still so optimistic about peace and remains so respectful to people of other faiths.”

The Sheikh stressed that that despite the events he will continue to dedicate his life’s work to reaching out to others in tolerance and a spirit of peace. “I remain as confident as ever that only through dialogue and understanding will we ever be able to win out over these types of evil.”