The recent arrest of five yeshiva students in the west bank on charges of arson and vandalism of Palestinian property is frightening and abhorrent. Even more frightening is the revelation that the leader of their yeshiva, who co-authored a book excusing violence against gentiles, may have influenced the students to commit violence.
Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira, head of the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva, and Yosef Elitzur, both of the west bank settlement Yitzhar, reportedly wrote in their book “Torat Hamelech,” or “The King’s Torah,” that the commandment against murder is applicable only when the victim is Jewish. The authors claim the book is a guide to Jewish law.
We applaud and share the Anti-Defamation League’s condemnation earlier this week of this extremist yeshiva rabbi and we urge others to join us in that condemnation.
“Torat Hamelech” is not only harmful to the rabbis’ reputations, but it can have worldwide repercussions for Israel and Jews.
According to an old anti-Semitic canard, the Talmud gives Jews permission to lie, cheat, steal, and murder – as long as the intended victims are gentiles. Indeed, this is one of the most common lies put forward by hate-mongers. Anyone making the charge has relied on sections of the Talmud taken out of context, but Shapira and Elitzur have now provided a blueprint for anti-Semites to prop up as “proof” and just cause for their own hate.
We are further disturbed that the story has been buried in the Israeli press. A quick Internet search of the rabbi’s name turned up little beyond bloggers with an axe to grind against Jews and Israel. Links to Jerusalem Post stories were not functioning, and YNet had but a tiny blurb that the rabbi had been taken in for questioning, without mention of his book.
For years now, one of Israel’s chief demands of the Palestinians has been to clamp down on incitement against Israel in Palestinian mosques and schools. Now an Israeli yeshiva is promoting incitement against Palestinians, and Israel has an obligation to quickly put an end to it.
ADL director Abraham Foxman called “Torah Hamelech” a “perversion of Judaism” and we urge all Jews, especially our rabbinical leaders, to take this position.