11/12/2004, 00.00
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The rabbi who mourned Arafat

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - Ultra-Orthodox Israeli rabbi Moshe Hirsch is mourning the loss of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and he's not ashamed to admit it. "I am praying for him because Arafat was a man who devoted his entire life to his people," says the 75-year-old Rabbi Hirsch, who advised Arafat on Jewish affairs. "I'm very sad as he was a great leader who always differentiated between the Jewish people and Zionism." Rabbi Hirsch is responsible for "external affairs" at Neturei Karta, an ultra-Orthodox movement that once had large backing for its view that the Jewish state was blasphemous

The rabbiwas one of the Palestinian leader's most frequent guests at his West Bank compound in Ramallah. Rabbi Hirsch regularly visited Arafat at the Muqataa, as his headquarters is known, even after Israel placed the leader under virtual house arrest nearly three years ago.

"We first made contact with Arafat about 30 years ago when he was living abroad, following a string of Palestinian attacks that claimed victims in the Orthodox community," the rabbi recalls. "We asked him to spare a community that had dissociated itself from the Zionist project, and he promised to do so," Rabbi Hirsch adds.

Rabbi Hirsch says he regrets that Israel has refused to allow Arafat to be buried in Jerusalem, home to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound, the third holiest site in Islam. The rabbi says he has no plans to attend Friday's burial service in the West Bank town of Ramallah as he cannot "violate the Jewish day of rest" which begins at sundown on Friday.

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See also
After Arafat, an opportunity for non-violence
Israelis, Palestinians jointly invite pilgrims to come back to the Holy Land
Indian Christians pray for Arafat
In Ramallah grief and confusion mark Arafat's last journey
Ramallah parish priest: "funeral vigils in Christian churches on Sunday"


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