American rabbinical students studying in Israel delivered more than 700 letters expressing concern about settlement expansion to the office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The letters, from American rabbis, cantors, rabbinical students, and cantorial students, are in response to the Israeli government's advancement of construction plans in the controversial E1E1 corridor between Maale Adumim in the West Bank and Jerusalem.
"All of us believe that the ultimate safety and security of Israel as a Jewish state will depend on reaching a peace agreement that also allows Palestinians to live safely and securely in their own state," the letters, delivered Monday morning, state.
"We fear that building settlements in E1 would be the final blow to a peaceful solution."
The letter writers also say that they fear that construction in E1 will damage "the critical relationship" between Israel and the United States, saying that construction in the E1 corridor violates repeated commitments to the United States, dating back to 1994, not to build settlements in the area.
The letter also said that "The current situation in the occupied territories violates Palestinian human rights and undercuts the very values on which Israel was founded – democracy, liberty, justice, and peace."
Some 720 American rabbis, cantors, rabbinical students, and cantorial students signed the letter online, in an undertaking organized jointly by Rabbis for Human Rights-North America, J Street, and Americans for Peace Now.
Marisa James, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America's Rabbinical Student Fellow in Israel arrived Monday at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem with three other rabbinical students to deliver the letters. The group had been denied in advance an appointment with Netanyahu or a member of his staff to hand the letters over personally.
James told JTA that after much discussion a security guard accepted the letters and said he would make sure that they got delivered to the prime minister, turning what could have been controversial into a "lovely experience."
Rabbis from Rabbis for Human Rights-North America's board plan to deliver a copy of the letter with its 720 signatures to the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC on Tuesday.
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