Rabbi Yosef refuses police summons for questioning

Rabbi Ovadia Yosef's son is last of rabbis who endorsed 'Torat Hamelech' to ignore police summons; arrest now appears likely.

June 29, 2011 13:39
2 minute read.
Rabbi Lior speaking at yeshiva

Rabbi Lior speaking at yeshiva. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)

Police have asked Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, son of Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef, to arrive at the headquarters of the National Serious and International Crimes Unit for questioning over his alleged endorsement of the controversial Torat Hamalech (King's Torah) book on Tuesday, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Rabbi Yosef refused the police's request.

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Following the refusal, Yosef's arrest now appears likely, although it remains unknown when police plan to bring him into custody.

The move comes on the heels of riots in Jerusalem on Monday that were sparked by the police detainment of Kiryat Arba-Hebron Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, carried in its wake widespread condemnation over the right-wing protesters’ disregard for the rule of law.

The rabbis are being investigated under suspicion of incitement for their endorsement of he 2009 book by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, the rabbi of Yitzhar, which gives Jews permission to preemptively kill gentiles under certain conditions in wartime.

“This is study-hall discourse,” Yosef's son Yonatan said of Torat Hamelech on Tuesday. “The Torah itself says much more extreme things – like those who desecrate Shabbat must be killed. Does that mean that anyone who reads the weekly portion should be indicted for incitement? Everyone understands that there is a difference between the text and the actions; nobody thinks that religious people are going to go out and kill secular people for not keeping Shabbat.

“There is no reason for investigators to meddle in halachic issues, and besides – it’s not rabbis who take people out to war, rather the government and the army,” said Yosef.

“The whole point of this affair is to isolate the Orthodox population, and keep it isolated as a law-breaking part of society, though this is the public that leads the State of Israel,” he said.

Government officials, however, were highly critical of the disturbances and riots that broke out following Rabbi Lior's arrest, and specifically of the rabbis' refusal to appear for questioning after being served with summons.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday issued a statement saying, “Israel is a law-abiding country. The law binds all and all are subject to it.”

“I call on all the country’s citizens to obey the law,” the prime minister said.

Opposition leader Tzipi Livni said that while she didn’t like to see a rabbi taken into custody, Israel must preserve equality before the law.

“If we lose that foundation, we will lose the source of authority, which is the foundation of our joint lives. The Jewish Scriptures also state that the sovereign’s law is the law, and that tenet accompanied the Jewish people throughout their exile and must continue to direct us in the Jewish state,” Livni said.

Ron Friedman contributed to this report

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