Leading rabbi voices ‘deep concerns’ over Rafah ground offensive

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg of Masorti Judaism said he felt unable to stay silent on the issue


Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg said he felt compelled to express his concerns about an attack on Rafah (Photo: X)

One of the UK’s most prominent rabbis has voiced his “deep concern” over Israel’s impending assault on Rafah in southern Gaza and fear its actions could haunt the country and the Jewish people “for generations”.

In a statement issued on Monday, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, senior rabbi of Masorti Judaism, said Israel’s potential actions made it impossible to remain silent.

While noting the barbarity of Hamas and cynicism of Iran, he said that “over a million Palestinian civilians, most already in flight from the north of Gaza, are now trapped with nowhere to go”.

Throughout, Judaism had stressed “our duty” to refugees and the helpless, while international law called for the protection of non-combatants. “How can we be unmoved by their grief and suffering?” he asked.

Israel has come under increasing pressure from allies to consider carefully any action in Rafah — which is close to the Egyptian border and where Hamas leaders are believed to be holed up underground.

Foreign Secretary David Cameron has said he was “deeply concerned” at the prospect of an attack and Israel should “stop and think seriously” before taking action.

Yesterday, a Dutch appeals court ordered its government to suspend delivery of parts for F-35s fighters to Israel.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday said that Israel planned to “get” Hamas’ remaining battalions in Rafah but promised “safe passage” for civilians.

In his statement, Rabbi Wittenberg said that US President Joe Biden had “warned that without a credible humanitarian plan to evacuate civilians safely, attacking Rafah is unconscionable”.

The fate of the hostages was “in our hearts”, he said. “But, as thousands of protesting Israelis have said, attacking Rafah is unlikely to bring the release of many”.

Rabbi Wittenberg said: “I write out of horror at what may ensure and at its potential consequences in unimaginable suffering.

“I write out of dread at the future hatred this is likely to engender, and out of fear that these actions may haunt us, and the good name of Israel and the Jewish people, for generations.”

He concluded: “I write in prayer that another, political path forward will be forged, and that the God of Israel and all humanity will help us find a way to a peaceful resolution without any more appalling bloodshed.”

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