Amid tensions in Jerusalem, Jewish seminary students visit injured sheikh
“I firmly believe that these conversations between representatives of our communities are extremely important, and I know that this dialogue can only serve to address the painful divisions which sadly exist in our society,” Rabbi Ohad Teharlev says.
| April 27, 2021
Amid continuing tensions between Arabs and Jews in the Old City of Jerusalem, a group of students from Midreshet Lindenbaum seminary visited Monday the home of Sheikh Jamal al-Obra, who was injured earlier in the week when a group of Israeli teens cornered him, his wife and daughter when the family arrived at the capital to deliver a sermon calling for tolerance.
Al-Obra, who serves as the imam of Rahat, a predominantly Bedouin city in southern Israel, is a well-known advocate for peaceful coexistence between Arabs and Jews. In 2020, he visited Midreshet Lindenbaum to address the students on the matter.
The school’s director, Rabbi Ohad Teharlev, decided on the visit immediately upon learning of the attack. He was accompanied by students from the seminary and Rabbi Yakov Nagen, Director of Ohr Torah Stone’s Blickle Institute for Interfaith Dialogue.
Teharlev, whose son, Elchai, was killed in a terrorist 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, al-Obra recalled the attack which left him and his daughter lightly injured when they were pelted with rocks outside Damascus Gate. Teharlev said that he deeply empathized with the pain that the sheikh h was feeling.
“I firmly believe that these conversations between representatives of our communities are 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,” he said.
Following the visit to his home, al-Obra brought the students to see the program and classes he and his wife established for senior women’s education and the local mosque which has a special section for women.
The sheikh stressed 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.”