The summoning of Rabbis Dov Lior and Yaakov Yosef for police questioning stirred outrage among the religious and haredi public, and now the Religious Zionist Movement plans to hold a large gathering in support of the two, with the attendance of hundreds of rabbis.
Last week the two rabbis were summoned for questioning – but refused to appear – after endorsing Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira's controversial book, "Torat Hamelech", in which he presented a halachic perspective on the killing of gentiles, including women and children.
The organizing rabbis published a notice in the religious papers' weekend edition titled "Conference for the Torah's Independence," in which they invite the city rabbis, yeshivas heads, and rabbis of all communities and neighborhoods to attend the special gathering at the Ramada Renaissance hotel in Jerusalem.
The notice was signed by "the eldest rabbis" of the Religious Zionist Movement across the spectrum, including Rabbis Yaacov Ariel, Chaim Drukman and Shmuel Eliyahu.
In an unusual step, two of the senior haredi-Sephardic yeshiva heads also joined the call – Head of Porat Yosef Yeshiva, Rabbi Yehuda Mualem, which is considered the flagship of haredi-Sephardic yeshivas (Rabbi Ovadia Yosef among its former students), and Head of Kisse Rahamim Yeshiva Rabbi Meir Mazuz, who is regarded as the rabbi of all exiled Tunisian Jews across the world.
"In light of the summoning for police investigation of the brilliant rabbis, of highest rabbinical religious authority in our times, Rabbis Lior Shalita and Yaakov Yosef Shalita, we thought it right to invite all of Israel's rabbis to a conference of rabbis and scholars in honor of the Torah and the entrenchment of its independence," read the notice.
"Without addressing the content of the book, we cannot agree in any way to the denial of scholar independence on matters pertaining to the Torah," wrote the rabbis.
'Grave act'On Monday Rabbis Lior and Yosef explained their support for the book: "The Torah is not open to investigation," they wrote. "The attempts to stop Israel's rabbis from expressing their opinions, the Torah's opinions, using fear and threats, is a grave act and will not succeed.
"A regime that acts in this manner joins the evil regimes which have forbidden the study of the Torah and raised their hands against it. We therefore declare that we intend not to come to be questioned," they concluded.
The rabbis' letter was submitted along with the signatures of over 50 rabbis, including city rabbis and yeshiva heads.
Head of Yeshivat Or Etzion Rabbi Chaim Drukman, who is among the moderate leaders of the Religious Zionist rabbis and Chairman of the Union of Hesder Yeshivot, addressed Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein over the weekend and urged him to cancel the investigation summons.
"Would they also investigate Rabbi Ovadia Yosef? Do they summon professors in the academia who call to boycott Israel and IDF commanders? Academic freedom should be extended to rabbis expressing the Torah's word," he said.
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