"Rabbis express sorrow over Deir Yassin"Published by Jewish Chronicle, London, UK, on 6 April 2001
Five prominent Progressive rabbis joined Sunday's Central London commemoration of the 1948 massacre of Palestinians at the village of Deir Yassin near Jerusalem.
In a concluding prayer to the evening — also attended by MPs, Arab diplomats and British-based Palestinians — Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues' life president Rabbi John Rayner spoke of "sorrow and shame" that the "land of our ancestors" had been the scene of bitter conflict.
Both sides had inflicted and endured "terrible sufferings" he added. It was important to remember the "innocent victims of Deir Yassin; the terror it caused, the flight it precipitated, the tragedy of dispossession and the exile that has resulted from it. Those of us who are Jews confess our people's share of responsibility for that tragedy." The attack — led by members of the Irgun and the Stern Group — is said to have accelerated the flight of Palestinians from towns and villages during Israel's War of Independence.
Rabbis David Goldberg and Mark Solomon, from the St John's Wood Liberal Synagogue, Finchley Reform minister Rabbi Jeffrey Newman and Durham University lecturer Rabbi Moshe Yehudai-Rimmer also supported the event, which attracted an attendance of several hundred.
Rabbi Newman confessed to having been "nervous" in advance about the atmosphere at the commemoration, organised by a joint Jewish and Palestinian group, Deir Yassin Remembered.
But he told the JC afterwards that the mood had been "absolutely remarkable, particularly because of the absence of hostility, rage or anger. In many ways it was a mirror image of a Jewish evening of the best sort, with music, drama and poetry," he said.
The rabbis' involvement in the commemoration has generated a heated debate in the JC's letters columns, with some correspondents applauding their stand, but others believing their presence played into the hands of Palestinian propagandists.