Dov Lior, the chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hebron.
Dov Lior, the chief rabbi of Kiryat Arba and Hebron. Photo by Tess Scheflan
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Some two thousand demonstrators showed their support Tuesday morning for Rabbi Dov Lior, the head rabbi of Kiryat Arba, who is wanted by the police for endorsing the controversial book "Torat Hamelech," which justifies killing non-Jews.

Rabbi Lior addressed the crowd at the Kiryat Arba demonstration, saying that "a couple of months ago, two Talmudic scholars from Yizhar published a book on the status of Jews and non-Jews. Racism refers to one nation wishing to enslave another, and this is not our intent."

The Rabbi added that "if the state decrees that Rabbis cannot express their political opinion, it will be just like the former Soviet Union, when the commissars used to dictate what was permitted and what was forbidden."

"Some clerk in the Judicial Ministry cannot be the one who tells the rabbis what is allowed. We will not tolerate this," Rabbi Lior declared.

The commander of the Hebron police visited Lior's home several days ago and informed him that there was an arrest warrant against him. The rabbi told the officer that he will not take part in the dishonoring of the Torah and that he would not show up for questioning by the police, which he claimed was aimed at "silencing rabbis."

In November 2009, rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzur published "Torat Hamelech" which discusses the conditions according to Jewish law under which one may kill gentiles. A criminal investigation ensued as a result of the book's publication.

Both Lior and Rabbi (and former Shas MK ) Yaakov Yosef, who also supported the book, refused to cooperate with police, issuing a letter instead stating that the Torah is not subject to police investigations. People close to Lior expressed outrage at the arrest warrant.

"The state prosecution and police have the audacity to issue an arrest warrant for a great Torah figure," one person said. "The purpose of the questioning, like that of dozens of rabbis in recent months, is to silence them. Whoever closes the cases against the heads of the Arab community who call for the destruction of the State of Israel or leftist professors in academia who call for harming IDF soldiers should think twice before issuing an arrest warrant against Rabbi Lior."

Sources close to the rabbi said that "he is adamant about not appearing at the questioning on his own accord in order to put an end to the persecution of the Torah and bolster other rabbis."

MK Michael Ben-Ari (Habayit Hayehudi ) also backed the rabbi, calling the warrant "a travesty."

"This is a regime of fear and one wonders where have all the left wingers gone, who just a few days ago spoke of being silenced," he said. "The issuance of an arrest warrant against a great Torah figure of such magnitude, when all this is about is the backing he gave to a book, is a crossing of a red line, McCarthyism ... Would they have behaved this way against an academic of the left?"