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Correspondence between Coalition for Justice Co-director
Haim Dov Beliak and Matti Dan of Ateret Cohanim

by Haim Dov Beliak, rabbi

My correspondence with Matti Dan and one of his associates from Ateret Cohanim, which you will read in this section, along with three scholars' commentaries, reveals a world that is unfamiliar to most Jews -- indeed to most of the world. Irving Moskowitz has given Ateret Cohanim $5.6 million from his Hawaiian Gardens, California bingo. (For more on Ateret Cohanim's activities, please see

Our purpose in posting our correspondence with Ateret Cohanim correspondence is to educate the public about the attitudes and world view of these Jewish settler messianists. Ateret Cohanim's world is a coded world of religious-fundamentalism, so we include with the correspondence explanatory comment from three scholars -- Dr. Richard Hecht of the University of California at Santa Barbara, Dr. Aryeh Cohen of the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, and attorney Thomas Nelson of Portland, Oregon. And I try, in the brief introduction that follows, to decipher the major elements of the apocalyptic code.

Increasingly, scholars view the alliance between Jewish messianists and Christian apocalyptic believers as an alarming phenomenon; they point with concern to the dangerous implications of this radical ideology for Jerusalem and the West Bank. Muslims perceive this militant Christian-Jewish alliance as a threat to destroy Islam's holy sites.

Ateret Cohanim runs a yeshiva (religious school) teaching the ancient priesthood craft to religious settlers, many of them descendants of the priestly sub-tribe of Levi. They are planning to re-build the Temple where the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aksa Mosques now stand. Their "purity curriculum" includes how to carry out animal sacrifices, what is the proper priestly garb, and how to avoid walking in cemeteries.

Christian Zionist cattle ranchers are helping out by trying to breed a red heifer without a single white hair to purify the priests so they can commence the sacrifices. This purification will involve an Ateret Cohanim priest killing, then burning this unfortunately special cow, together with hyssop wood and daubing the resulting ash on the priests to purify them, as specified in Numbers 19.

Ateret Cohanim believes that the "holy" land grab it is carrying out with Moskowitz's help will speed the coming of the messiah, and, by implication, the rebuilt temple and the return to animal sacrifices. For 2000 years, no form of Judaism has viewed sacrifices as necessary; prayer is the accepted substitute. Ateret Cohanim is alone in its quest to resume this primitive practice.

In our email exchange the Ateret Cohanim correspondent claimed: "[L]ike others in this hate-filled world, you [Haim Dov Beliak] are playing a part in stopping the Mashiach [Messiah]. Why should he come if there is so much senseless hatred [sinat hinam] within Am Yisrael [Jewish People.]" In the commentaries, which you can reach via the link below, Prof. Richard Hecht discusses what they mean by the coded words "senseless hatred."

Disingenuously spouting 1920's Zionist slogans, Ateret Cohanim purports to reunite "a land without people to a people without a land" --never mind the inconvenient presence of Muslims and Christians. I tried with partial success to draw out the Ateret Cohanim correspondents about the evident aim of their occupation of Palestinian properties -- blocking Israeli-Palestinian peace. As you will see in the correspondence, they repeatedly dodged the question: "Is Moskowitz buying land to make a peace agreement with the Palestinians geographically impossible? And do you agree with this strategy of not giving the Palestinians a face-saving toe-hold in East Jerusalem?"

In a September 19, 1997 interview with the Jerusalem Post, an Ateret Cohanim leader was not so coy about the buyouts and move-ins:

…[A] physical presence, regardless of its size, is all that seems to matter. Just look at Hebron, suggests Yossi Baumol, the executive director of the Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva in the Moslem Quarter, an organization that has been at the forefront of Jewish purchases in east Jerusalem. "If there are two or three Jewish families in an Arab neighborhood, people are going to visit, it gives a sense of security, it makes that street feel part of Israel. And if, God forbid, the government wants to divide Jerusalem, we can look at Hebron and see that a few Jewish families are the ones who determined the border - not the army, not Netanyahu, not Arafat."

Click here for the Emails   Click here for the Commentaries

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2003 the Coalition for Justice in Hawaiian Gardens and Jerusalem