An unlikely benefactor. An Ashkelon resident who made a fortune in the European real estate business has decided to pay for the construction of a mosque in France for the benefit of the local Muslim community.
Father of four Robert Harush, 58, grew up in Ashkelon and having completed his military service tried his luck in the real estate business in Europe. His success has won him many hotels and buildings and he is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of shekels.
Despite his success Harush did not forget his hometown and has returned to Ashkelon and invested in local building ventures. For the past 10 years he has been dividing his time between Israel and
France. His four children all speak Hebrew.
The businessman even chose to stay in the southern city during Operation Cast Lead.
He remained in Israel also after a Grad rocket landed near his house.
Surprisingly, he has not harbored any ill-feelings against the Arab side and is a strong supporter of co-existence. He was recently approached by the mayor of Montereau, a French city adjacent to Paris, who informed him of his difficulties in financing the renovation of a large mosque in the city.
"I told myself 'here is an opportunity to bring the people together' and decided to donate the money," Harush said. "People were dumbfounded. What does a Jewish-Israeli man have do to with refurbishing a mosque? The answer is simple: I'm sick and tired of the hatred. A sane voice must emerge."
Harush explained that he built the mosque in order to promote co-existence. "It wasn't a cheap venture but I did with all my heart."
Leaders of the Montereau Muslim community have thanked Harush for the gesture and maintain a warm relationship with him.
The businessman, however, is not interested in supporting the Muslim community alone and has paid for the construction of one of the largest and most grandiose synagogues in Asheklon last year, which was named after his late father.
He is currently working on setting up a mikveh in the southern city to be dedicated to his late mother. "I myself am not a religious person but I feel that in the absence of upstanding politicians it falls on businessmen to bring together Jews and Arabs and seculars and the religious.