Supreme Court protest planned over rabbis’ detainment

A week after Dov Lior, Ya’acov Yosef questioned by police over endorsement of ‘Torat Hamelech’ book.

Rabbi Ya’acov Yosef with supporters 311 (photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
Rabbi Ya’acov Yosef with supporters 311
(photo credit: Ronen Zvulun/Reuters)
A massive rally is planned for Monday evening near the Supreme Court to protest the recent detainment and questioning of two senior rabbis.
Rabbi Ya’acov Yosef, 64 and the son of Shas’s spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, was detained on Sunday morning on his way home from morning prayers, and was briefly questioned by police on suspicion of incitement to violence and racism over his alleged endorsement of the Torat Hamelech (The King’s Torah) book.
RELATED:Analysis: Location is everythingHundreds gather over rumors of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef’s arrest 2nd rabbi ignores summons over book controversy
Last week, Kiryat Arba- Hebron Chief Rabbi Dov Lior, 77, underwent a similar ordeal.
Lior cooperated with the investigators, while Yosef exercised his right to remain silent.
The two rabbis were taken in for questioning and released after police for months had asked them to come in for questioning on their own volition. Both rabbis had refused.
Lior and Yosef will be among those addressing Monday’s rally, which according to organizers will call on the legal system to “stop the condescending political campaign of shutting mouths, as is evident in the arrests of the rabbis and their interrogation for a rabbinic endorsement of a book dealing with halachic issues.”
Torat Hamelech, by Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, head of the Od Yosef Hai yeshiva in Yitzhar, gives Jews permission to preemptively kill gentiles, including babies, in wartime, under certain conditions. The treatise is based on Maimonides, the Shulkhan Aruch and other central Jewish sources.
After Lior was taken in, the Yosef family knew that Ya’acov Yosef’s arrest was imminent and inevitable, But they also insisted that he shouldn’t show up for police questioning, saying there was no equality before the law, and a rabbi shouldn’t be questioned for writing about Torah.
“Father didn’t want to show up for investigation since he endorsed a Torah composition, which shouldn’t be subject to investigation since intellectuals in Israel have freedom of expression,” Amram Yosef said.
“It is inconceivable that people like Ben-Gurion University professor Dr. Eyal Nir said that right-wing marchers’ necks should be broken, and nothing came out of that incitement to murder. My father only expressed a scholastic Torah opinion. This is all an attempt to harass rabbis from the Right.”
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu related to Yosef’s arrest during the cabinet’s weekly meeting on Sunday: “Israel is a nation of law, as I said a few days ago. Nobody is above the law – and I demand that every Israeli citizen respect the law.”
Netanyahu made a very similar call last week after the arrest of Lior.
Before the cabinet meeting, Government Services Minister Michael Eitan told reporters that when the police asks for information, it is the obligation of every citizen to come and provide that information.
Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein said that it is always wise to weigh, as the country has done in the past, the true necessity of every action taken by the police and the attorneygeneral.
Hundreds of people held a demonstration in support of Yosef on Sunday afternoon outside of his house in the capital’s ultra-Orthodox Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood.
Prominent rabbis as well as MKs Ya’acov Katz and Michael Ben-Ari, both from National Union, addressed the crowds.
Katz called on Netanyahu to repent. “They are striking us not because we are weak, but because we are becoming stronger and growing in numbers,” Katz said.
He also said that when the numbers tip in their favor, “we’ll get even with all of those involved” in what he described as persecution of the Right.
“Everything will be according to law,” he stressed.
Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed, head of the Beit El Yeshiva, expressed similar sentiments, saying that “nobody can stop us, God is returning the Jews to Torah, we have many religious army and police officers, it was already difficult for them” to arrest the rabbis.
“The next stage is we take over the media, the State Attorney’s Office, the High Court of Justice with religious people.
This is an inevitable movement,” he said. “Trying to stop it just makes it stronger.”
“Tomorrow is the real demonstration, this was just spontaneous,” Ben-Ari told The Jerusalem Post after he accompanied Yosef back into his apartment.
“The message we sent today is that they can’t damage the pure word of Torah, and that anyone who tries to harm this world is creating a war between brothers. The public won’t allow this to happen, and they need to understand that they’re playing with fire and there is going to be a huge explosion,” he said.
“This is a black day,” said another of Yosef’s sons, Yonatan Yosef, as a crowd tried to make its way to the nearby tomb of Shimon Hatzadik. “They are just looking for the points of conflict, for the areas that are going to explode,” he said. He added that his father was doing fine after his brief detainment and would continue his teaching schedule for the rest of the day.
After the speakers finished around 3 p.m., approximately 100 demonstrators tried to march toward the Shimon Hatzadik tomb in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, which is across Highway 1. Police cars blocked the way, and officers used force, including water cannons, to disperse the demonstrators.
“They were not hysterical,” Jerusalem police spokesman Shmuel Ben-Ruby said of the protest, which broke up after only an hour and a half.
“We expected the demonstrations would consist of attempts to block traffic, and throwing stones, and that’s what happened,” he said. Ben-Ruby added that the protest was much smaller in size than last week’s (when Lior was detained) and in a more concentrated area.
There were two incidences of demonstrators who surrounded a car driven by Arabs who were passing by the neighborhood and broke the windows, spraying pepper spray into the cars.
In one instance, two young Arabs were lightly wounded by the pepper spray and treated on the scene by Magen David Adom paramedics. The driver of the second car fled the scene after being attacked, and police removed the car from the area.
Police arrested seven demonstrators for disturbing the peace during the protests on Sunday.
Haredim set two dumpsters on fire and threw rocks at the police outside Yosef’s house.
Unwitting residents caught in the crossfire complained that their neighborhood had been almost like a war zone for the past three days, with hundreds of protesters gathering at a moments’ notice. On Thursday, a rumor spread through the local yeshiva community that Yosef was being arrested, and hundreds of demonstrators showed up within minutes.
According to reports in the haredi media, late on Sunday night demonstrators also lit a small fire that was quickly contained, on the Bridge of Strings at the entrance to Jerusalem, in protest against Yosef’s detainment.
Yosef called on his supporters Sunday night to stop the disturbances and return to their studies, Army Radio reported.
Herb Keinon contributed to this report.