Rabbi Lior released; hundreds protest at Supreme Court

Kiryat Arba rabbi questioned for endorsing book condoning killing of non-Jews; religious political community furious; 9 detained in protests.

By JONAH MANDEL, MELANIE LIDMAN
June 27, 2011 17:24
4 minute read.

Rabbi Dov Lior 311. (photo credit: Ben Hartman)

 
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Kiryat Arba's Chief Rabbi Dov Lior was released by police on Monday after he was detained  "on suspicion of publishing material that incites racism." Lior was released after being questioned for an hour.

Dozens of young people gathered at the entrance to the city around 4 p.m. and were partially successful in blocking 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. Heavy traffic was caused by the demonstrations, and authorities urged motorists to use alternate routes to enter and exit the city, such as Route 443.

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Three demonstrators were arrested at a large protest against the arrest of Lior 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, they arrested two additional demonstrators. Police used cars and water canons to disperse the protesters. The intersection was reopened to traffic at 7pm.

A total of 9 protesters were arrested in demonstrations across the city.

Lior was detained Monday afternoon over his endorsement of the Torat Hamelekh (King's Torah) book. The arrest was made by the National Serious and International Crimes Unit.

Lior, head of the Yesha (Judea and Samaria) Rabbis and one of the most senior national religious rabbis, was pulled over while driving on the Tunnel Road connecting Gush Etzion and Jerusalem and taken to Lod for questioning.



The arrest was met with fury from the religious political community.

In the past, police have accused Lior of failing to answer calls to appear for questioning. Last year, one of the two co-authors of the book, Rabbi Yosef Elizur-Hershkowitz, from Yitzhar was arrested on suspicion of incitement to racial violence, possession of racist text, and and possession of material that incites to violence. Elizur-Hershkowitz cooperated with police and was released soon after his arrest

Torat Hamelech, authored by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur of the Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva in Yitzhar, advocates killing innocent non-Jews in certain situations during wartime.

In February, nearly 70 prominent national religious rabbis signed a letter of protest over the police’s announced intention to arrest Lior if he continued to ignore their requests to present himself for questioning.

Heads of the some of the leading educational institutions within the sector – including Rabbi Haim Druckman of Or Etzion, Rabbi David Stav of Tzohar and the Petah Tikva hesder yeshiva, Rabbi Elyakim Levanon and Rabbi Eliezer Melamed – defended Lior’s ongoing refusal to be investigated for the rabbinic endorsement (haskama) he gave the book.

Lior and Rabbi Ya’acov Yosef, son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, have been publicly refusing the police summons since last year. Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsberg of Kfar Chabad, who also endorsed Torat Hamelech, appeared for police questioning as requested last year and used the opportunity to explain to police the halachic reasoning behind his support for the book.

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.” Michael 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.”

MK Yaakov Katz called on all yeshiva students, as well as members of the Knesset, to come to the Russian Compound in Jerusalem later Monday to protest the “disgrace of the Torah.” 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. 

Others joined them in expressing their anger. Heads of the Land of Israel Caucus MK Zeev Elkin (Likud) and MK Arie Eldad 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.

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