Police on Sunday detained Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, son of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, on suspicion of incitement for his endorsement of the "King's Torah" book. His car was stopped by officers as he was returning home from prayers at the Simon the Just tomb in east Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood.
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He was released home after less than 30 minutes of questioning at the Police National Headquarters but was said to be uncooperative. The rabbi, who refused to give finger prints or answer questions, was released on bail for NIS 5,000.
Rabbi Yaakov Yosef after questioning (Photo: Atta Awisat)
A support rally for the rabbi was held outside his home in Jerusalem later on Sunday. Some of the rabbi's supporters started rioting at the end of the rally and called officers "Nazis." They were dispersed with water canons after hurling stones at police officers.
MK Michael Ben-Ari and MK Yaakov Katz attended the rally. "We have come to protest the disgracing of the Torah," Katz said. "Prime Minister Netanyahu, you are losing your government's moral legitimacy."
Bentzi, one of the rabbi's supporters said: "Torah laws are stronger than state laws." At the rally's sidelines, several right-wing protestors attacked two Arabs using tear gas.
Police decided to wait with the arrest in order to avoid riots such as those following Rabbi Dov Lior's arrest. Rabbi Yosef had failed to report for questioning for several months and was therefore detained Sunday.
The rabbi had spent the past few days surrounded by his followers who sought to prevent police forces from getting near him.
The rabbi's son, Amram Yosef, was with him in the car at the time of the arrest.
"Two minutes before we got home from the Rosh Chodesh prayer, police detectives stopped us at the traffic light, showed their IDs and ordered us to get out of the car and took it.
"This is a military vehicle belonging to the rabbi's student who is a captain at the IDF. My father was taken into questioning. Another police car took the rabbi's driver and I was left in the scene," he recounted.
Protest to ensue? (Photo: Atta Awisat)
"This is an abduction, outright car theft," the son claimed. "They have no authorization to take a private car. It's a disgrace that a rabbi is arrested for a religious opinion in the Jewish state while members of the Left who incite to violence are not even investigated."
MK Michael Ben Ari said: "The police have proved themselves bullies over Israel-loving rabbis. I dare them to do the same with sheikhs inciting in mosques and anarchists working against Israel."
Rabbi Yosef's arrest has already prompted protest Sunday morning. Tires were set on fire in Jerusalem's Moshe Zachs Street, most likely by the rabbi's followers. Three men who tried to block the Light Rail were detained.
The rabbi's father, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef criticized his son. "He was called in for questioning. Why shouldn't the fool go in for questioning? Let him go in! Why is he provoking the police? Why didn't he go in for questioning as soon as he was summoned? What was he afraid of? What, did he steal? He should have gone and gotten it over with," he said.
Yosef also slammed Rabbi Dov Lior, saying it was Lior's extremism that caused his son to get into an unnecessary conflict with the law.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the arrest during the weekly cabinet meeting, saying: "Israel is a state of law and no citizen is above the law. I demand that every citizen respect the law."
Protest and criticism
Rabbi Dov Lior, one of the leaders of the Religious-Zionist public, who was arrested last week near Jerusalem and released after a brief interrogation, called Rabbi Yaakov Yosef following the questioning, and urged him not to let the justice system's prosecution break his spirit.
Lior's arrest sparked nationwide protest during which 20 demonstrators were arrested. It also raised harsh criticism against the police and state prosecution by right-wing elements.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later issued a statement backing the law-enforcement system.
Leader of the haredi-Lithuanian faction Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv publically expressed his opposition to the King's Torah, which discusses the killing of non-Jews during war. Rabbi Ovadia Yosef joined him.
MK Nissim Zeev accused the State Prosecutor's Office of persecuting the world of the Torah and the religious public and described the arrest as an "anti-democratic act" and part of an intimidation campaign.
He said that the rabbi was an MK when the anti-racism law was legislated and that it was promised that it would not apply to halacha which can be interpreted as racist. "Tomorrow any cantor reading the Torah will be considered an inciter. Where is the freedom of speech?"
The MK claimed that the "King's Torah" does not contain any incitement against Arabs or non-Jews. "It's all provocation by someone at the State Prosecutor's Office who does not understand the book or the halachic style."
He added that one has the right to disagree with book's conclusions but that it's no reason to turn its supporters into racist as "almost all halachic matters are controversial."
Eli Senyor and Kobi Nahshoni contributed to this report
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