After the disorders in Eretz Yisroel in 1929, the Chief Rabbi of the Orthodox Jewish Community, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, zt”l, issued a touching appeal to the Arab population to live in peace with the Jewish community, and assuring them that the Jewish people have no designs on the Temple Mount nor Arab properties.
This appeal, presented in English translation, was printed in Arabic in the leading Arab newspaper as well as in Loshon Kodesh in the Agudah weekly, Kol Yisroel on November 22, 1929. It appeared in English in the Palestine Bulletin on November 29.
It is fifty-seven years since the L-rd allowed me to ascend to the Holy Land, to take pleasure in its stones and to enjoy its earth. Providence has permitted me to be a witness to the rebuilding of the ruins of Jerusalem, may it be built and established, to the expansion of its settlement beyond the city’s walls. Houses were built and neighborhoods were founded. They established charitable institutions, foundations of Torah and service to G-d. Workshops were also established. Men who live by the toil of their hands and by trade have ascended to our Holy Land.
During the days of my dwelling in the Holy Land, the L-rd has aroused the spirit of certain esteemed individuals to fulfill the commandment of settling the land of Israel both by working the earth in order to partake of its fruit and be satiated by its goodness, and by fulfilling the commandments connected with the land. And with His help, may He be blessed, settlements have been established in Judah and the Galilee, which, afterwards, were a delight for me to walk through and give praise and thanks to the One who establishes the border of the widow.
The “Western Wall”, the place from which the Divine Presence has not departed, even in its ruination, has been a place of refuge for all the inhabitants of the Holy Land to pour out their hearts. Whenever a Jewish soul has thirsted for closeness to G-d, whatever the supplication, whatever the prayer, he has gone to this holy place, and his prayer has ascended to heaven and he was helped.
This holy place also serves as a tower for the entire world. The dispersed of Israel, in far off lands, direct their hearts in prayer to this place where the Divine Presence dwells, and when they are in distress, they turn to their brothers in Jerusalem to arrange supplications for them by this “Western Wall”.
There was no fixed time for this outpouring of prayer. Neither day nor night have the feet of Jews ceased treading in this holy corner. I too, have been favored by the L-rd to be among the visitors to this place. I too, have not, had a fixed time for this, and many times my feet stood in this holy place, late at night, alone, and in seclusion with the One who caused His name to dwell in this house. And all of these decades even after the land came under the mandate of His Royal Majesty’s government, the government of Great Britain, may His Majesty be exalted, peace and tranquility prevailed in the land. The inhabitants of the land who are not the Children of Israel looked favorably upon the blossoming of the settlement. Antagonism to religion, which, lamentably is prevalent in many lands abroad, had no place in this sanctified land. The One who makes peace in His heavens had spread the tabernacle of His peace over the land and the city which He chose, and there was no violence or outrage in our streets. Our esteemed neighbors honored the Jews, and the Jews respected the other inhabitants of the land. On many occasions one group was helped by the other, as is fitting proper for tranquil neighbors, who together desire the success of their community. Also the Arabs knew and still know that the Jews seek their peace and well-being, and bring a blessing upon the entire land. All of them together awaited the great day of the L-rd, on which his Divine Presence will return to Zion, to restore its sanctity and glory, as in days of old, to be a light to the nations and kingdoms.
But behold now, woe unto us that such a thing has arisen in our days, a raging storming wind is turning upon the Jews of the Holy Land. Hatred and slander is taking root, causing the spilling of innocent blood and the destruction of holy settlements. The soil of the Holy Land is saturated with the blood of pure, innocent souls, and the voice of the blood of brothers cries out to us from the ground.
To our great sorrow, false accusations have been spread, invented by lovers of strife, which ascribe evil intentions to the Jewish inhabitants in order to arouse anger and vengeance, and to turn our quiet Holy Land into a battlefield and place of catastrophe, G-d forbid. The severe consequences of the dispute and belligerence bring a great loss to the entire community. And if the situation continues, G-d forbid, any longer, it is liable to bring misfortune and ruin upon the entire community and upon hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants.
I am eighty years old today, and in the days of my old age, the L-rd has bound me to see the destruction of the foundations of the settlement, which was built over a period of many years, with the toil and sweat of men who sacrificed themselves for it, and which was nurtured and reared by strong men, out of holy devotion and out of a strong will to secure the foundations of a settlement in the Land of Israel.
I turn to all sections of the population of the Holy Land, and in particular to those who are not of the Children of Israel and from the depths of my sad broken heart, I ask to to have pity on the Holy Land, and to say to the angel of destruction, “cease!” Remove hatred from your hearts, and don’t allow yourselves to be misled by the false prophecies and seductions of men who, either with evil intent or because of mistaken assumptions are trying to increase division among the various parts of the population.
Don’t turn your ears to slanders and false charges that are baseless. The Jewish inhabitants of the Holy Land do not seek, G-d forbid, the harm of the rest of the inhabitants. They desire, just as the other inhabitants of the land that which is good for the land and good for all those who dwell in it. The Jews do not want to encroach upon the rest of the inhabitants. The Holy Land is a beautiful land, in which, with the growth of the community and its expansion, there is room for all of its inhabitants to dwell in peace, without anyone interfering with his neighbor to the slightest degree.
The Jews do not want, in any way, to take that which isn’t theirs. And they certainly don’t want to contest the rights of the other inhabitants to the places held by them in which they regard with honor and consider holy. And in particular there is no foundation to the rumor that the Jews want to acquire the “Temple Mount”. On the contrary, from the time that, because of our sins, we were exiled from our land, and our Holy Temple was destroyed, and we have been lacking the purity required by the Torah, it is forbidden for any man of Israel to set foot upon the grounds of the “Temple Mount”, until the coming of the righteous Meshiach, who with the spirit of the L-rd, which will hover over him, will rule righteously, for the good of all creation, and will return to us the purity required by the Torah.
We request only that they leave us the most holy place that is left for us, as a refuge, the site of the Western Wall, so that we will still be able to pour out our prayers before our father in heaven, concerning any trouble that may befall us, G-d forbid, and whenever a Jewish soul desires this holy place, without any disturbance and with peace of mind, as was always the case.
I declare my words before everyone and I hope that all righteous peoples of the world will recognize the justic of my words and because of this recognition will make every exertion and explore every possibility to restore peace to the Holy Land, and to remove suspicion and jealousy from the hearts of all the inhabitants. And then the L-rd will take pleasure in our deeds and strengthen the work of our hands, in order to see the building of our Holy Land, and its blossoming, for the enrichment of the entire world, and then His Presence will dwell amongst us as in ancient times.
Awaiting speedy salvation
Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld
TRUTH AND PEACEThe “Holy Land”, upon which the eyes of the L-rd our G-d are from the beginning of the year until the end of the year, the land from which comes forth blessings for all the peoples, and in which the prohets of the L-rd forsaw the promises of the future and the perfection of all humanity, and from which they called for the peace of all creation, has groaned and cried for two years because of pain and insult, and it soil, which is permeated with holy memories of purity of heart and morality of character, has become a witness to raciel hatred and strife between neighbors. And the atmosphere of spiritual life is filled with suffocating clouds which poison every understanding heart, and remnant of human love.
The prolonged controversy and dissention is repelling the Divine Presence and is removing G-d forbid, the blessing of the L-rd from the beautiful and bountiful land, which is destined and assured by providence. And in its place come aching souls, quarrels between brothers, scheming hearts, lack of faith and trust in the L-rd, and mistaken and misleading suspicions of one another.
As one of the leaders of the “Holy Land”, who has been privileged, with G-d’s help, to be in this land, now nearly sixty years, and who has been an eyewitness to years of tranquility, security and complete peace between the inhabitants, I permit myself to turn to all the inhabitants of the Holy Land, regardless of race or religion, the people which the Divine Providence has given the privilege of dwelling in the land which is holier than any other land, to ask them, from the depts of my broken and said heart to have pity upon the bountiful land and upon the various ethnic groups that dwell in it, to come together to rebuild the moral ruins and to reestablish the broken fragments of humane feeling and divine ethnics, which have been ruined and shattered during the last few years.
Uproot every grudge from your hearts. Remove the suspicions that come from false prophecies and seductions which nest there, and pave the road to peace. The heads of the Jewish People in the Holy Land will be the first to call for peace, and the hearts of the leaders and heads of the Arab People will in turn be aroused to the restoration of peace to the people.
The blessing of the L-rd will accompany the goodwill of the inhabitants. It will enrich and crown this will with success and saturate the holy ground with the dew of life. And may we be privileged to see the new light which the L-rd will cause to shine on Zion, and nations will go by His light.
As the entreaty of one who awaits and longs for heavenly mercy,
Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld