An Open Letter to Moshe Katsav
President of the State of Israel
October 23, 2005
[This is the Oct 28 revision]
Dear President Katsav:
Recently the Vatican newspaper, El Messagero, reported you might sign an agreement handing over part of Kever David HaMelech (the traditional tomb of King David) on Mt. Zion to the Roman Catholic Church. For many years the Vatican has wanted the room they describe as the "Last Supper Room" of which all historians agree, is not the location where a supposed event of the same name ever took place. It is well established and accepted that this part of the building is nowhere near 2000 years old, it may not even be 700 years old.
Until the liberation of the Old City of Jerusalem in 1967, it was the roof of this location that people went to pray, as it was the closest they could get to the Western Wall. Prime Minister Ben Gurion planted trees in its old courtyard, Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatszeira (the Baba Sali) made a pilgrimage there, and people continue to travel from all over the world to visit and pray at this traditional burial location of King David.
President Katsav, I am sure you are well aware that over the years, several Christian organizations have been making strides to control all of Mt. Zion. Sadly, we now know Jews are assisting them. It is well known that one party involved is a Jew that was knighted by the Pope; he in the past has unmistakably acted as a liaison from the Vatican to the Israeli authorities. This American Jew has previously met with Chaim Silberstein, the chief of staff of the Minister of Tourism, and Director of Religious Affairs Gadi Golan. It is truly shameful that Jews would work towards the elimination and hand over of a piece of Erets Israel, no matter how large or small it is.
I lived on Mt. Zion just a few meters from this location and there I spoke with a highly respected rabbi that advised me that the Church has wanted the part of the King David complex for decades, because ownership of it would allow them to Christianize the site and the entire surrounding area. You truly must realize that handing over part of a Jewish landmark would not only be wrong, but it would establish precedence for the Vatican to take over even more property in the future.
I understand that the potential hand over of part of the Kever David would include a trade of the building in Toledo, Spain the Christian community calls the "Sinagoga de Santa Maria la Blanca" or Synagogue of Saint Mary the White. This building was once a grand synagogue, built in the 12th century. It was built during a period when Toledo was still a thriving city filled with Jewish families and Jewish intellectualism. However, in 1355 and then in 1391, Jews in Toledo and throughout Spain fell victim to a savage campaign of murderer and plunder by Christians who rose up against them. During this period, over two dozen synagogues in Toledo were abandoned or destroyed, thousands of Jews murdered.
Toledo is a city where all Jews were chased out or killed by mobs that were incited by Ferrand Martinez and later Vicente Ferrer. The latter was the teacher of future Catholic Grand Inquisitors. After his death, the Vatican canonized him as the heroic Saint Vincent. The Catholic Encyclopedia declares, "Multitudes were won over by his preaching…the number of Jews converted at 25,000." The magnitude of the terror is remembered in the words of Rabbi Hasdai Crescas who witnessed the horror in Toledo:
A day of pain and admonition, a day of multiple sorrows, the anger of the Lord lighted on the community from which Torah and the word of the Lord have gone forth, namely the community of Toledo; priest and prophet were killed in the Lord's temple. There the rabbis publicly died a martyr's death, the good and chosen seed, the seed of Rabbi Asher [Rabbi Yehuda, grandson of the ROSH], they and their sons and students. There, too, many who could not defend themselves converted. On these three communities the earth roared. Aside from other communities in their environs, their number came to about seventy cities...and we have been on guard night and day…
When the Jews of Toledo prayed each morning, they faced east towards Jerusalem. It was not Toledo that they desired, but Erets Israel, which was still unobtainable. Now, we have Jerusalem, we can go to the holy sites and we can live in the land. If those that built that synagogue knew that this abandoned building in Christian Spain was being traded for a piece of real estate in Erets Israel, they would roll over in their graves. Today, the "Santa Maria Synagogue" is nothing but an empty shell, a tourist stop in a city where no Jews remain.
President Katsav, I have not addressed the fact that the building should have been given back to the Jews in the first place-that we must remember the Jews were chased out of it; I leave this subject open to future discussion. The primary point I wish to communicate is that it is grossly improper to even consider entertaining the idea to cede any part of Israel to any foreign government; this includes holy locations and historic buildings as much as it does entire cities.
I beseech you not to give into political pressure and hand over any part of Erets Israel, even just one building, for it will come back to haunt us. We need to hold on to every square centimeter of land inside Israel. I write this on behalf of the 1.2 million Sephardim around the world and as a respected admirer of your service to a grateful nation.
International Sephardic Leadership Council