Kiryat Arba Chief Rabbi Dov Lior was detained by police Monday afternoon over his endorsement of a book that purportedly incites violence entitled, Torat Hamelekh (King’s Torah).

The 2009 book by Yitzhak Shapira gives Jews permission to preemptively kill gentiles if they feel threatened.

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Lior had refused to answer a police summons over his approval of the book, and stated that rabbis should have autonomy to express their opinions on matter of Jewish law and thought.

The arrest was made by the National Serious and International Crimes Unit.

Lior, head of the Council of Jewish Communities of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip, and one of the most senior national religious rabbis, was pulled over while driving on the road connecting Gush Etzion and Jerusalem and taken to Lod for short questioning.

On Monday night, Lior was greeted by his supporters who staged protests against his arrest throughout the day.

Hundreds of young men sang and danced in his honor under the bridge at the entrance to Jerusalem. The crowd, including the rabbi, departed in a procession to the Merkaz Harav Yeshiva in Jerusalem’s Kiryat Moshe neighborhood.

Also part of the group were Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, another rabbi who endorsed the controversial book and has refused police summons for questioning, Chief Safed Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu and Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira of the Yitzhar settlement, who is the author of Torat Hamelekh. MK Michael Ben-Ari (National Union) was also present.

Addressing a packed central study hall at the yeshiva, Lior reiterated that the issue at hand was about freedom of thought with no ramifications of violence or incitement.

“We know that the dignity of Torah is a priority to other things,” Lior said. “Those charged with implementing the Torah, true sages (talmidei hakhamim) dedicate their lives to studying Torah, and Halacha is ruled according to them.

“Sages don’t need the approval of a Commissar to determine what can or cannot be said,” he said, using the Hebrew word “haskama” for acquiescence, which is also the same word used for rabbinic endorsements for books,” he said.

“To accuse rabbis dealing with Torah research of incitement to violence is wrong; sages have nothing to do with violence, their sole purpose is to educate.

“The Torah does not need anyone’s approval.”

Speaking after Lior, Yosef noted that “some people have a hard time reading an entire book.”

He continued, “There are those who never learned in a yeshiva. I would like to refer them to a synopsis of the book.”

Yosef also noted that his father, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, president of the Shas Council of Torah Sages, wrote similar things in his Yecheve Da’at series, for which he was awarded the Israel Prize.

Twenty-five activists were arrested Monday in a number of Jerusalem demonstrations sparked by Lior’s arrest.

Three demonstrators were arrested at a large protest outside of the Supreme Court that began around 6:00 pm.

Hundreds of demonstrators massed and blocked the intersection outside of the court.

Police arrested one of the demonstrators, and when dozens of demonstrators tried to grab him away from the security forces, police arrested two additional demonstrators.

Police used cars and water canons to disperse the protesters.

The intersection was reopened to traffic at 7 p.m..

Demonstrators also gathered outside the home of Deputy Attorney General Shai Nitzan.

One demonstrator was arrested as protesters tried to block the light rail at Herzl Blvd.

Six right-wing demonstrators were arrested in a demonstration at the city entrance that began at 4 p.m. in which dozens of young people blocked the main entrance to the city on Highway 1.

By the time police had dispersed them and reopened Highway 1 to traffic, the crowd had grown to over 200.

Simultaneously, about 20 right-wing demonstrators protested outside the Jerusalem police station in the Russian Compound in downtown Jerusalem.

In a statement released on Monday, police said Lior was detained “on suspicion publishing material that incites to racism.” The statement added that Lior was released after being questioned for an hour.

Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi (Shas) expressed his indignation to Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch.

“The rabbi was abducted on his way to Jerusalem like a common criminal. It would have been appropriate that if the police want to investigate the rabbi, they could have done so respectfully,” Margi said.

The chief rabbis also issued a joint message, saying they were pained over the severe damage to the rabbi’s dignity.

But they also stressed that in these times, “we must fortify ourselves with love to our fellow Jews, and not be dragged into confrontations that could cause a split in the nation.”

Dozens of Knesset members also issued a letter to Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman, calling him to disperse “the Shai Nitzan gang” for arresting a rabbi like a common criminal.

Knesset members from the National Union were outraged over the arrest.

Uri Ariel said on Monday afternoon that “hunting down rabbis who rule on matters of Jewish law is not the task of the police and State Attorney’s Office.”

Ben Ari called for the dismissal of the public security minister, since police “treat Arab leaders with kid gloves, while here are disgracing a great rabbi.” Nachi Eyal, who heads the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, said that rabbinical freedom of speech and their ability to issue edicts is as important as the academic freedom given to lecturers at Israel’s universities.

“It’s a shame that someone in the Justice Ministry wants to ignite a fire and harm an entire community whose faith in the [country’s] legal system is already fading,” he said.

Others joined them in expressing their anger.

Heads of the Land of Israel Caucus MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) and MK Arie Eldad (NU) expressed their “shock over the police’s decision to employ detectives to arrest a rabbi in Israel, as though he were a common criminal, just because of his halachic stance.” The caucus called for the release of Lior and that the investigation be called off.

Nachi Eyal, who heads the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, said that rabbinical freedom of speech and their ability to issue edicts is as important as the academic freedom given to lecturers at Israel’s universities.

“It’s a shame that someone in the Justice Ministry wants to ignite a fire and harm an entire community whose faith in the [country’s] legal system is already fading,” he said.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.

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