Jewish Rabbis in Surprise Visit to Sidon

Residents of the southern city of Sidon were surprised on Monday to see two rabbis touring Jewish sites in the city's old quarter.

The two American members of Neturei Karta -- a group of anti-Zionist Jews who believe that the state of Israel should not exist -- came to a former synagogue inhabited for decades by families in the "Jewish quarter" where now only the Star of David and Hebrew inscriptions are visible.

"For 40 years we have not seen a rabbi in Sidon. And the last Jewish families left after the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, fearing reprisals," said one resident on condition of anonymity, adding that they still had land and property in the city.

Still recognized as one of 18 religious denominations in Lebanon, the Jewish community has shrunk over the years from 22,000 members in the early 20th century to 300, according to unofficial estimates.

Around their necks the two visiting rabbis wore Palestinian keffiyehs, and a badge on their chest proclaimed in English and Arabic "A Jew, not a Zionist."

The two men also went to the city's Jewish cemetery, where hundreds of Lebanese Jews are buried following their deaths during the 1975-1990 civil war. The cemetery has been vandalized several times.

The rabbis also visited the tomb of Zebulon, a son of the biblical patriarch Jacob, a previous pilgrimage site.

"We (Jews) lived in peace before the advent of the worldwide Zionist movement. The Israeli occupation has contributed to a feeling of hatred against Jews," said Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss.

On March 30 the two joined the south Lebanon procession marking the annual Land Day, commemorating the death in 1976 of six Israeli Arabs during protests against land confiscations by the Jewish state.

Source: Agence France Presse

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