(December 19, 2018 / JNS)
The Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem, Aryeh Stern, issued an unprecedented halachic ruling that Israel has an obligation to help free Palestinians who have been imprisoned for selling land to Jews.
In a letter sent to Lt. Col. (res.) Baruch Yedid, head of the Arab Affairs desk at the Zionist movement Im Tirtzu, Stern wrote that the obligation for freeing imprisoned Jews also applies to Palestinians jailed for selling land to Jews.
Stern’s letter came in response to the recent abduction of Issam Akel, a resident of Jerusalem who was arrested by the Palestinian General Security Service on the suspicion that he had sold land to Jews.
“In the Talmud and Jewish law, we learned that poor non-Jews need to make a living just like poor Jews, and so, too, this is the ruling according to which non-Jewish prisoners should be freed just like Jewish prisoners; it is already known that the commandment to free prisoners is one of the most important commandments,” he wrote.
“Large efforts must be made to free the abducted [Issam Akel] because he is suspected of selling property to Jews, and anyone who is involved in this plays a part in the commandment to settle the Land of Israel. Efforts to secure his release will encourage others not to be deterred or refrain from selling land, because they’ll know that they will be protected from anyone who seeks to harm them.”
Yedid welcomed the letter, saying that it was a historic and brave move by the rabbi.
“For the first time, a significant figure in the rabbinical institution is intervening on behalf of the Palestinians who have become targets for the Palestinian Authority in the capital,” said Yedid.
“We hope that these words will lead to action, and that the rest of the authorities in Israel will act in this spirit and put an end to Palestinian lawlessness in Jerusalem,” continued Yedid. “The authorities must provide protection to Israeli residents and assert de facto sovereignty.”