Police arrested rabbi Yosef Elitzur-Hershkowitz from Yitzhar overnight Wednesday on suspicion of incitement to racial violence, possession of a racist text, and and possession of material that incites to violence.

The arrest comes as part of the investigation into the book Torat Hamelech (The King's Torah),  co-written by Elitzur-Hershkowitz and  Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira of the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar. The book discusses the rules of war, and states that in certain situations, non-Jews can be killed.

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Elitzur-Hershokwitz will be arraigned at a Rishon Lezion Magistrate's Court on Thursday.

The book has attracted a firestorm of controversy since being published in 2009, and police have questioned Shapira over the texts last month, while raiding the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in Yitzhar in order to confiscate copies of the text.

Rabbi Dov Lior, of Kiryat Arba, and Yaakov Yosef, son of Shas spirtual leader Ovadia Yosef, provided endorsements of the book, and have refused requests by the police's National Serious and International Crimes (NSCIC) Unit to arrive for questioning at the unit's Lod Headquarters this month.

Deputy State Attorney Shai Nitzan commented Thursday on the case, criticizing the rabbis refusal to talk to police investigators.

"The fact that a person is a rabbi in Israel does not afford him legal immunity, he is not above the law," stated Nitzan on Army Radio. "Freedom of religion and free inquiry do not permit one to do what they please. If someone incites racial hatred, an investigation will be opened against them. There are things that are always considered red lines."

Hundreds of primarily national-religious rabbis took part in a convention “in honor of the Torah and its independence” on Wednesday, following Lior and Yoseph's summoning by police. Without endorsing the content of the book, the participants of the gathering maintained that police should not get involved in matters pertaining to halachic discourse. Senior figures such as Ramat Gan's Rabbi Ya'acov Ariel and Rabbi Chaim Druckman were also present at the event.

Jonah Mandel contributed to this report.


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