Head of Yitzhar's Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, who was arrested and questioned last week on suspicion of incitement to violence against non-Jews, commented on the incident for the first time in the press on Sunday, and urged his fellow rabbis to join him and express the Halacha's stance on the "ethics of war".
The alleged incitement is found in Yitzhar's book, "Torat Hamelech", in which he presented a halachic perspective on the killing of gentiles. On Sunday, the rabbi said, "Despite the establishment's picking on anyone who publishes a Torah opinion in the matter, we must not be afraid."
In an open letter published in the rightist-religious newspaper B'Sheva, Shapira wrote, "I am assuming that everyone admits that the war ethics currently guiding the establishment do not match what the Torah teaches." He gave as an example the prosecution of soldiers and officers "for battling Israel's enemies".
Shapira addressed rabbis whose students serve in the Israel Defense Forces and are "risking their lives" 'in the war against the enemy, and urged them to teach and publish their viewpoints in order to give these soldiers "the power of the Torah". According to the rabbi, "We cannot remain silent when people who risk their lives in the war on Israel's enemies are put on trial for it."
Shapira backed by Yitzhar Yeshiva presidentAccording to Rabbi Shapira, his controversial composition deals with the question of "how to behave at a time of war according to the Torah" and does not talk about murdering gentiles for no reason. In support of his position, Shapira quoted a text given to him by Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg, president of the Yitzhar yeshiva, and one of the Hilltop Youth rabbis, which appears the start of his book.
"These issues are very relevant to our current situation in the Land of Israel, and we must immediately conquer our enemies," Rabbi Ginsburg wrote. "In order to act appropriately, in the spirit of the Torah and in order to strengthen the spirit of the people and its soldiers, deep reflection on the Torah is required."
Last week dozens of rabbis and Religious Zionist public figures issued a condemnation against the rabbi's arrest, and said he was only "expressing a Halachic opinion". They also protested the way his arrest was carried out – in the middle of the night by dozens of police officers.
Bet El Rabbi Shlomo Aviner on Sunday told Ynet that the book "Torat Hamelech" is an "academic halachic work, an educational piece" and there is no justification to send its author to prison. Nonetheless, the rabbi stressed that he opposes the opinions expressed in the book, and said, "I don't think its right to write various rulings about killing a gentile, just like a Swede wouldn't write a book about killing a Norwegian." He added, "Obviously, it is wrong to kill gentiles for no reason, and of course, in wartime the IDF is permitted to defend itself against anyone who shoots – even if it is a 'good' person."
Even head of the Tzohar organization, Rabbi David Stav, known as one o the moderate forces within Religious Zionism, condemned Shapira's arrest: "Regardless of the level of halachic legitimacy of his opinions, it is unreasonable and illogical that a rabbi in Israel be treated like the worst of criminals. For some reason, they are treating him in a way they would not dare treat public officials or even Palestinians."
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