The IDF prevented a delegation of religious-Zionist rabbis and social activists from entering the West Bank village of Yasuf Sunday, where a mosque was torched on Friday.
The rabbis had arrived in order to donate Koran books to the mosque, but these had to be taken into the village by a Muslim representative due to IDF fears that a conflict would break out if rabbis were allowed to enter the village.
The rabbis waited at a central West Bank junction while soldiers blocked them from proceeding into the village.
After a few hours the IDF released a statement saying the visit had been properly coordinated and that the rabbis would be allowed in within hours, but by then it was two late and the parties left the area.
Earlier the army had stated that the delegation was denied entrance by the IDF chief of staff's office due to security concerns.
Rabbi of Tekoa Menachem Froman said the halacha prohibits doing harm to religious sites. "This deed was a serious religious crime," he said, adding that mutual respect between Jews and Muslims could bring peace.
"If we keep hiding our heads in the sand and denying that the conflict (with the Palestinians) is religious, we will never get anywhere," Froman said.
Abbushi examines donated Koran books (Photo: Ido Erez)
He also condemned similar acts on the Palestinian side, such as the torching of Gush Katif synagogues and the desecration of Joseph's Tomb in Nablus.
"They also do worse things such as murder Jews," he said. "I'm not saying they are pacifists but enmity exists on both sides," the rabbi added.
Governor of the Salfit region, Munir Abbushi, met with the rabbis at the junction and told them, "The torching of the mosque was a racist act. We are in favor of true peace, and I thank you for coming to identify with us on the torching I hope we can live in this country as two states."
Abbushi also criticized the IDF for failing to prevent the act. "There are people in the village calling for
revenge, but they are the minority," he said. "We are a national movement and not a religious one, and all we want is a Palestinian state."
The meeting ended with a joint song and dance by Palestinian and Jewish religious officials.
Rabbi Yehuda Gilad, who heads the yeshiva on the religious kibbutz Maale Gilboa, said, "We came to expel darkness, especially during the days of Hannukah. Light is not added by hurting our brothers, the Muslims, who are the servants of God just as we are. This is an important message to relay."