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‘Murder is murder’: North London Rabbis react to violence in Israel and Palestine

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg

Friday, July 11, 2014
1:00 PM

Prominent representatives of Jewish and Muslim communities in north London have issued a united call for “calm” in Israel and Palestine as many fear for the safety of relatives and consider cancelling annual holidays to the area.

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Rabbi Neil JanesRabbi Neil Janes

Separate trips to Jerusalem and the West Bank were taken last week by both Maajid Nawaz, the Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn, and prominent north London Rabbi, Jonathan Wittenberg.

They arrived as the bodies of three missing young Israelis were discovered, believed to have been kidnapped and murdered by Palestinian extremists.

It was followed by the “revenge killing” of a Palestinian boy, thought to have been burned alive by Israeli extremists.

Tensions continue to escalate over the killings, with Hamas militants firing rockets into Israel and Israeli forces shelling Gaza.

Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Maajid NawazLib Dem parliamentary candidate Maajid Nawaz

The rise in violence has seen members of the Jewish community in Hampstead and Highgate fearing for the safety of relatives and loved ones in Israel – with many now rethinking their annual family holidays to the state.

Rabbi Wittenberg, a leading Jewish figure based at New North London Synagogue in Finchley, said “de-escalation” was the message many in his community wanted to spread.

“There’s a deeply sad mood to all this in Israel as well as in my own community here in north London,” he said.

“There is sadness for the parents of the three Israeli boys, and there is real pain and sorrow for the killing of the Palestinian boy.

“Revenge won’t bring back those killed. Because of what it entails for both sides, I’m really hoping it won’t come to any further escalation in violence.”

The Foreign Office has advised against non-essential travel to areas of Israel “within 40km of the border with Gaza” and issued warnings over travelling to Jerusalem and near Jewish settlements.

Mr Nawaz, visiting the area with the Lib Dem Friends of Israel, said: “The priority now should be de-escalation.

“It’s not in the interest of the extremists on either side to reach a settlement. They feed off each other in these situations.

“So we have to all of us look at the conflict with a level head and ditch the dogma.

“Palestinians need a state and Israelis need security. Those are the priorities we need to think about going forward.”

Rabbi Shlomo Levin, of the South Hampstead Synagogue in Eton Villas, said young Jews in his community booked on organised trips to Israel were being advised to stay away from major cities and religious sites.

Rabbi Neil Janes, of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, said: “There’s just a sense of despair in our community over the whole situation. But Judaism is founded on hope, so we shall pray for peace.”

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