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Photo: Gur Dotan
Bentzi Gophstein
Photo: Gur Dotan
Jewish supremacist: Burning churches legitimate under Jewish law
Radical right wing activist Bentzi Gophstein, who has narrowly escaped charges of incitement to violence, was recorded saying that he unquestionably supports the burning of churches and 'houses of idolatry.'
Bentzi Gophstein, head of the Lehava organization, said he supported the burning churches as a legitimate act under Jewish law during a debate on a haredi panel Wednesday. The statement, made during a summer seminar session for students at Jerusalem's Netivot Hochma (Wolfson) Yeshiva, was first exposed on the religious news site Kikar HaShabbat.

 

 

The panel, which included prominent rabbis and political figures and was led by Rabbi Abba Turetsky, featured a heated debate surrounding the status of Christian churches in Israel that were labeled "houses of idolatry." Gophstein, a radical right-wing activist, was asked, "Do you support burning churches in Israel, yes or no?" by Benny Rabinowitz, a writer for the ultra-Orhtodox daily newspaper Yated Ne'eman, who attended the event. Gophstein replied, citing a Maimonides ruling that churches should be burned. "Are you for Maimonides or against him?" he asked, rhetorically.

 

Gophstein's answer shocked the attendees, including Rabbi Moshe Klein, who is the Rabbi for the Hadassah Medical Center, and deputy mayor of the city of Elad, Tzuriel Krispel, who immediately and vigorously expressed opposition to his remarks. "Benzti are you for burning or not?" Rabbi Turetsky asked. "Of course I am," Bentzi can be heard saying in the recording. "It’s Maimonides. Simply yes, what is there to question?"

 

Bentzi Gophstein
Bentzi Gophstein

 

Rabbi Klein told Gophstein, "You are on camera and being recorded. If this lands in the hands of the police, you will be arrested." Gophstein answered, "That’s the last thing that worries me. I'm willing to sit in prison for 50 years the truth."

 

Immediately after the meeting, Rabinowitz exposed Gophstein's remarks on twitter, igniting a social media frenzy.

 

Gophstein denied the reports, and stated that he was merely quoting Maimonides as a part of a Halachic (Jewish law) debate. Recording notwithstanding, Gophstein is still trying to claim that the remarks were part of a theoretical debate.

 

Gophstein has been repeatedly detained by police on charges of incitement to violence and incitement to racism, but has never been indicted.

 

"In a closed panel at the Wolfson Yeshiva, a debate emerged regarding Maimonides' view on Christianity," he said to Ynet. "During the debate I said that according to Maimonides, idolatry should be burned. I emphasized a number of times that I was not calling for action, but just repeating the ways of Maimonides, and that action is in the hands of the government - not individuals. I understand that there is slander against the right wing, and people are trying to catch us on every word, but I would recommend they first investigate the inciters in the mosques or Tibi and Zoabi. Then talk to me."

 

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