Rabbi Yaakov Yosef demonstrators, rally
Demonstrators gather in Bar Ilan after police arrest Rabbi Yaakov Yosef for questioning over incitement to racism and violence. Photo by Emil Salmon
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Emil Salmon
Rabbi Yaakov Yosef is raised on a chair after police questioned him over incitement to racism and violence. Photo by Emil Salmon

Hundreds of people demonstrated in Jerusalem Sunday in support of Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, who was arrested that morning for questioning over incitement to racism and violence, and released in less than one hour.

Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, son of Shas spiritual leader Ovadia Yosef, was arrested in his car after concluding his morning prayer at Simon's Tomb in Jerusalem, and was questioned for less than an hour about his endorsement of the controversial book "Torat Hamelech," which justifies the killing of non-Jews, before being released.

A short demonstration took place outside his home in Jerusalem, which developed into unruliness. Some of the protesters attacked two cars carrying Arabs, in which one passenger was injured and required medical treatment. Police forces that were called to the site pushed protesters to the sidewalk and opened the street to traffic.

According to one report in the Israeli media, some of Yosef's supporters broke away from the central demonstration, branding the police at the scene as "Nazis."

Knesset members Michael Ben Ari and Yaakov Katz (National Union), along with Rabbi Zalman Melamed of Bet El settlement gave speeches at the demonstrations. Yosef also addressed the crowd of demonstrators, thanking them for their participation.

MK Ben Ari told the crowd that “there should not be a situation whereby a rabbi retracts his words over a witch-hunt by the state attorney. This is not law-enforcement. It is persecution of the torah. It reminds us of dark days in history. We say to the justice minister: this pursuit strengthens the torah, it strengthens the Jewish people.”

MK Katz told the demonstrators that settlers are a threat to the state attorney, because they are strong and multiplying. He said that the day will come when the settlers will run the state, write the legislation, investigate and see who put rabbis on trial, and that they will take revenge.

According to Rabbi Melamed, “it is impossible to stop scholars from coming forward and speaking the teachings of the Torah.” He also spoke about the dream that one day the media and High Court of Justice will have observant Jews working for them, who will discuss the law of the Torah. “This is a development that will be impossible to stop,” he said.

Kiryat Arab Chief Rabbi Dov Lior was also detained earlier this week following his endorsement of the book on suspicion of incitement to violence and racism, after he refused to be questioned on the matter.

Following Yosef's arrest, police stationed security forces throughout Jerusalem fearing disorderly conduct by protesters. Several demonstrators had burned tires on the Tel-Aviv-Jerusalem highway, and three youths were detained after they had tried to block the path of the Jerusalem light rail near Yosef's home.

About 18 months ago, Yosef issued a written endorsement of the book Torat Hamelech ("The King's Torah"). The book considers various situations in which killing non-Jews is permitted.

In the subsequent investigation, police questioned both the author, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, and Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg, who also endorsed the book. But Yosef and Rabbi Dov Lior, who endorsed the book as well, refused to show up for questioning, saying they felt they were being persecuted, and that a religious tract could not be investigated by the police.