First published by The Jewish Chronicle, UK
Friday, April 12, 2002
Jewish clergy at memorial for 1948 killings:
Rabbi’s prayer at Deir Yassin commemoration
By Bernard Josephs
Photo Caption: Palestinian envoy Afif Safieh (left), the lord mayor and lady mayoress of Westminster and the Foreign Office’s Christopher Prentice among the audience at the memorial ceremony.
A London rabbi on Sunday recited a memorial prayer for Palestinian victims in Israel’s War of Independence.
The Liberal Jewish Synagogue’s Rabbi Mark Solomon was one of three Progressive ministers who attended the St. John’s Wood church ceremony commemorating Palestinian villagers killed by Stern Group and Irgun forces at Deir Yassin, near Jerusalem, in 1948.
He told the JC that he had thought “long and hard” before participating.
“In view of the horrible things that have happened in Israel, I had to debate with myself whether it was right to attend. But I decided it was vitally important that we offer gestures of reconciliation and understanding at a time like this.”
Rabbi Solomon - whose rendition of “El Male Rachamim” closed the memorial - felt that the event had been conducted with “dignity, restraint and humanity.”
The other Jewish clergy at the ceremony were ULPS life president Rabbi John Rayner and Kingston Liberal Synagogue’s Rabbi Danny Rich.
Organised by Deir Yassin Remembered, a joint Jewish and Palestinian initiative, the event drew Arab diplomats, the head of the Foreign Office’s Near East and North Africa Department, Christopher Prentice, and Westminster Lord Mayor Harvey Marshall.
“There was a clear effort to keep politics to a minimum,” Rabbi Solomon said. “The Jews who attended were greeted warmly and with great appreciation. I felt privileged to take part.”
“Some within my community expressed reservations about my participation but I also received a great deal of support, and a number of our members attended.”
The organisers’ Jewish director, Paul Eisen, said the London event had been one of a number held in Britain and abroad.
Largely comprising the recital of writings and poetry about Deir Yassin, it had been designed as an act of reconciliation.
Remembering Deir Yassin “does not mean we are blind to the suffering of the Jews and Israelis,” Mr. Eisen declared.