A Scene of Desecration: Rabbi Yehiel Greniman on Al Mughayir’s Burned Mosque

The following post by Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann of Rabbis for Human Rights was originally posted on RHR's web site on November 14, 2014, and is reprinted here by permission from the author.


 A mosque was badly arsoned, presumably by Jewish extremists, in the early hours of November 12 2014 in the village of Al Mughayir. About a month prior, another mosque, in a different Palestinian village in the Occupied Territories, was also burned. Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann of RHR visited the mosque in Al Mughayir and writes of his shock at the severity of the arson.

Al Mughayir

By: Rabbi Yehiel Grenimann

There was still a smell of smoke there.

The blackened walls of the burned Al Mughrayer mosque were visible as we approached in Zakaria’s car today but I didn’t expect to still smell traces of yesterday’s arson in the air. When I got out of the car I smelled it.

We were welcomed by three elderly, bearded men sitting on stools on the side of the road opposite the building. ‘Ahlan wasahlan” they said, beckoning us to sit as well.

So we sat. Soon we were drinking strong black coffee with these elders outside the mosque building. We talked about what had happened the day before while waiting for the mayor, Faraj Nassran to arrive. Zakaria translated. They complained that the Arab world doesn’t care and they are left to the mercy of the Israeli army and the extremist settlers. They seemed sad and resigned rather than angry which surprised me.

The mayor, tall, thin and wearing a grey jacket soon arrived. He smiled sadly, remembered Rabbi Arik, knew who we were.

After shaking hands and taking a few photos outside of the smashed and sooty windows, we got up to go into the building with him. I asked about graffiti and was told that, “No, this time there were none.” He mentioned that the army had been there the previous evening, had put the village under curfew the night before and that no one had been able to leave or come until midnight. “They knew something was going to happen” he said, “but they left.”

The inside of the mosque was hard hit. I saw walls black with soot on all sides, the ceiling was black too, and the fixtures above had partially melted from the heat. Burnt-out electric sockets and mangled and melted fans, were lying everywhere along the walls, but for me the most shocking sight of all was the pile of burned books in the traditional enclave facing Mecca.

It was almost waist-high.

I asked how many Korans had been destroyed and was told:

“About 500. There is a girls’ school nearby. They use the books here to study.”
“Yes I saw the girls going home before when we drove up.”
“They must be very upset.”
“Yes. They are.”

This is the worst case of destruction of a mosque I have encountered since these Price Tag attacks starting a number of years ago. I have now been to too many mosques (perhaps a half a dozen, maybe more) after an attempted arson. We have shown solidarity, made gifts of the Koran to replace those destroyed in the past, but how does one respond to this degree of damage? What can one say to the villagers?

I still see that pile of books in my mind as I write now. Charred, blackened pages of holy books desecrated!

We are a people who have suffered similar treatment of its holy books in the past, and have known the fulfillment of the terrible prophecy of the German-Jewish poet, Heinrich Heine:

“A people who burn books will in the end burn human beings!”

I have pointed the saying out to people visiting Yad VaShem when I worked there.

I don’t have adequate words to describe the profound shock and disgust at that sight. What has become of us that we could have raised young “religious” people in this country who are capable of doing such a thing? And how have we produced a generation of young people, soldiers, police, lawyers, judges, journalists, teachers, and just ordinary Jews who don’t care, are apathetic when something like this happens? Or, worse, find justifications for such things, or claim that the Palestinians themselves are burning their own buildings and books!

And when will someone finally be arrested, tried, convicted for this kind of sacrilege?

Driving home through the beautiful hills and valleys of Samaria and Judea, passing the terraces of olive trees, the villages and settlements, the army installations and antennas the disturbing thought crossed my mind that the answer to this last question might simply be: “Never” because none of those in power here really care.

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