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Rabbis replace Korans at burned mosque in West Bank

Palestinians say Jewish settlers are to blame for a fire in a mosque in the occupied West Bank.

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By Joel Greenberg
Tuesday, October 5, 2010; 6:10 PM

BEIT FAJAR, WEST BANK - In a rare act of conciliation Tuesday, a group of rabbis from Jewish settlements near the Palestinian town of Beit Fajar visited a mosque there that had been torched by arsonists and brought Korans to replace those burned in the blaze.

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The attackers, who struck early Monday, left behind Hebrew graffiti and are suspected to be radical Jewish settlers.

The rabbis, from the Gush Etzion cluster of settlements south of Bethlehem, arrived in a convoy of Israeli military government jeeps escorted by Palestinian police.

"I am sorry and ashamed," Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein, a prominent Orthodox leader, told Palestinians in the damaged mosque. "There are people who set fires and commit violence on both sides. We are looking for a way to be partners of those of us and you who believe in the possibility of peace, and want to reach peace."

Shlomo Riskin, rabbi of the neighboring settlement of Efrat, said, "Whoever destroys, whoever murders and whoever burns the house of God will be punished from the heavens." Rabbi Menachem Froman, an advocate of contacts with Muslim leaders, handed over a boxful of new Korans.

Local officials urged Israeli authorities to catch the arsonists, noting that no one has been prosecuted for previous desecrations of mosques in the West Bank in the past year.

Greenberg is a special correspondent.

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