Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, chief rabbi of Jerusalem (1848-1932)

Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld used an analogy: Once there was a prince who excelled in all areas and was perfect in every way. He was also the only child of his father, the king, and his father loved him dearly. One day the prince became seriously ill. His father sent for the best doctors and brought them to his hospital bedside, where he stood together with him. Could one imagine that such a wise boy would ask his father and his doctors to free him from the hospital and send him home? And even if he did make such a foolish request, they would not grant it, despite their mercy and love for him. Leaving while not completely recovered would put his life in danger.

We, the Jewish people, are in such a situation. Hashem sent us into exile because of our sins. The exile is the Jewish people’s hospital. It is unthinkable that we should take ourselves power in our land before our healing process is complete. Hashem protects us and shields us while doling out to us the medicine of suffering in exact amounts. We are certain that when the time comes and our healing from our sins is complete, Hashem will not delay even one second, and He Himself will redeem us. Not so if we would hurry to leave the hospital – then a mortal danger, a perpetual danger would hover over us, G-d forbid. And even when we pray for our redemption, we only ask that our healing process be completely quickly – not that we should return to the King’s palace while still sick, G-d forbid (Mara D’ara Yisroel v. 1 p. 145).

Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld said: In the Torah, Hashem promised to give us Eretz Canaan. He promised that He Himself will give it to us, not that we would have to take it on our own by force. And the prophet (Yishaya 1:27) says, "Zion will be redeemed through justice, and those who return to it through righteousness." The first half of this verse has the same numerical value as "Talmud Yerushalmi" and the second half has the same numerical value as "Talmud Bavli". This teaches that only by fulfilling the two Talmuds can Zion be redeemed from the hands of the gentiles - not through might and power. (Mara D'ara Yisroel v. 1 p. 145)

After the massacre of 1929, Rabbi Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, chief rabbi of the Orthodox Jewish Community, issued a touching appeal to the Arab population to live in peace with the Jewish community, assuring them that the Jewish people had no secret plans to take the Temple Mount or any other Arab properties. He wrote:

The inhabitants of the land who are not the Children of Israel looked favorably upon the blossoming of the settlement. Antagonism to religion, which, lamentably, is prevalent in many lands abroad, had no place in this sanctified land. The One who makes peace in His heavens had spread the tabernacle of His peace over the land and the city which He chose, and there was no violence or outrage in our streets. Our esteemed neighbors honored the Jews, and the Jews respected the other inhabitants of the land. On many occasions one group was helped by the other, as befits tranquil neighbors, who together desire the success of their community. Also the Arabs knew and still know that the Jews seek their peace and well-being, and bring a blessing upon the entire land. All of them together awaited the great day of the L-rd, on which His Divine Presence will return to Zion, to restore its sanctity and glory, as in days of old, to be a light to the nations and kingdoms.

But behold now, woe unto us that such a thing has arisen in our days, a raging storming wind is turning upon the Jews of the Holy Land. Hatred and slander is taking root, causing the spilling of innocent blood and the destruction of holy settlements. The soil of the Holy Land is saturated with the blood of pure, innocent souls, and the voice of the blood of brothers cries out to us from the ground.

To our great sorrow, false accusations have been spread, invented by lovers of strife, which ascribe evil intentions to the Jewish inhabitants in order to arouse anger and vengeance, and to turn our quiet Holy Land into a battlefield and place of catastrophe, G-d forbid. The severe consequences of the dispute and belligerence bring a great loss to the entire community. And if the situation continues, G-d forbid, any longer, it is liable to bring misfortune and ruin upon the entire community and upon hundreds of thousands of its inhabitants.

I turn to all sections of the population of the Holy Land, and in particular to those who are not of the Children of Israel and from the depths of my sad broken heart, I ask them to have pity on the Holy Land, and to say to the angel of destruction, "Cease!" Remove hatred from your hearts, and don't allow yourselves to be misled by the false prophecies and seductions of men who, either with evil intent or because of mistaken assumptions are trying to increase division among the various parts of the population.

Don't turn your ears to slanders and false charges that are baseless. The Jewish inhabitants of the Holy Land do not seek, G-d forbid, the harm of the rest of the inhabitants. They desire, just as the other inhabitants of the land, that which is good for the land and good for all those who dwell in it. The Jews do not want to encroach upon the rest of the inhabitants. The Holy Land is a beautiful land in which, with the growth of the community and its expansion, there is room for all of its inhabitants to dwell in peace, without anyone interfering with his neighbor to the slightest degree.

The Jews do not want, in any way, to take that which isn't theirs. And they certainly don't want to contest the rights of the other inhabitants to the places held by them which they regard with honor and consider holy. And in particular there is no foundation to the rumor that the Jews want to acquire the Temple Mount. On the contrary, from the time that, because of our sins, we were exiled from our land, and our Holy Temple was destroyed, and we have been lacking the purity required by the Torah, it is forbidden for any man of Israel to set foot upon the grounds of the Temple Mount, until the coming of the righteous moshiach, who with the spirit of the L-rd, which will hover over him, will rule righteously, for the good of all creation, and will return to us the purity required by the Torah.

We request only that they leave us the most holy place that is left for us, as a refuge, the site of the Western Wall, so that we will still be able to pour out our prayers before our Father in heaven, concerning any trouble that may befall us, G-d forbid, and whenever a Jewish soul desires this holy place, without any disturbance and with peace of mind, as was always the case."

The following is the English translation of the Arabic memorandum submitted in 1924 to King Hussein of the Hejaz, by Rabbi Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld and Dr. Yackov Yisroel DeHaan, together with a delegation that visited the monarch upon his visit to his son Emir Abdullah in Transjordan.

Feb. 20, 1924

His Majesty:

In the name of G d, the High Lord, Creator of Heaven and Earth: We feel honored to stand before His Majesty as representatives of the world Jewish organization Agudas Yisroel and the Eidah Hachareidis in the Holy City of Jerusalem, organized by the Ashkenazic Jewish Community…

May G d, King of all Kings exalt his kingdom and in his days shall flourish justice for the benefit of those who find protection in his shadow.

We assure His Majesty that the Jewish population relates to their neighbors with brotherly harmony wherever they exist, and also in the Holy Land we will adhere to that tradition and in the future will cooperate with all the inhabitants in the building and prospering of the land for a blessing and peace with all ethnic groups.

We respectfully request from His Majesty that whenever any expression of Jewish opinion on matters concerning the Jewish population, or the Holy Land, will be brought to his attention, he shall also grant permission to the representative of "Agudas Yisroel" to appear, representing Orthodox Jewry, for Which the Holy Land is the center of their yearning and who pray for its peace and rebuilding three times a day.

We also express our hope that His Majesty will do the utmost to use his huge influence for the benefit of the Jewish People which live in all Arab countries.

May the L rd of the universe bless him and his descendants, and many more years shall he see the well being of his people. In his and in our days shall Judah be redeemed and Israel rest in tranquillity, amen.

Dec. 6, 1931

To the honorable Muslim Congress of Jerusalem,

Orthodox Jewry in Palestine, under the auspices of the worldwide Orthodox organization Agudas Yisroel, is honored to greet the Muslim Congress in the Holy City of Jerusalem. May it be G-d’s will that this gathering of Muslim leaders bring blessing to the city and the land chosen by G-d, and help to bring about peace among all its inhabitants.

The Congress will deal with the question of the Islamic holy sites in the Holy Land. In regard to this, it is important to us to declare before all those gathered, and before all of the Muslim world, that Jews have no intention to challenge the rights of Muslims to their holy sites, or even to demand any rights to these places, just as we do not want others to challenge our rights to sites holy to us.

We completely deny any suspicion that we want to demand rights to your holy site that is called “the Al-Aqsa Mosque” and the other holy sites located on the Temple Mount compound.

As far as the Western Wall, the place from which the Divine Presence never departed, our only wish is that we be allowed the same privilege as was allowed our grandfathers – to pour out our hearts in prayer respectfully, without disturbance, before G-d who dwells in this place.

We hope that a spirit of peace will envelop the Congress, helping to remove the suspicions harbored in the hearts of each segment of the population against the other. May the Holy One, blessed is He, spread His canopy of peace over all the inhabitants of the land, giving success to its building and flowering for the good of all.

The Center of Agudas Yisroel in the Holy Land, Jerusalem