Education Minister to Speak at Confab Honoring Rabbi Who Praised Hebron Massacre

Rafi Peretz and Bezalel Smotrich will be guests of honor as Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, seen by many as a spiritual figure for violent settler extremists, receives prize

Peretz (R) and Smotrich during a Union of Right-Wing Parties convention in Jerusalem, March 2019
Olivier Fitoussi

Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz and Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich are set to give speeches at a conference which will also honor a rabbi who praised the 1994 Hebron massacre and was previously charged with inciting racism.

The ministers, who are both running in the United Right political alliance in the September election, will speak at a Thursday event during which a prize will be awarded to Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh.

The U.S.-born rabbi is known for publishing a pamphlet praising the actions of religious extremist Baruch Goldstein, who in 1994 carried out the massacre in the Tomb of the Patriachs, in which he killed 29 Muslims at prayer. Ginsburgh is also among the rabbis who endorsed the book “The King’s Torah,” which discusses circumstances in which Jews may kill non-Jews according to Jewish law.

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The prize will be awarded under the auspices of an institution called the “Cathedra for Torah and Wisdom,” which received approximately 25,000 shekels ($7,162) in 2017 and 2018 from the Education Ministry’s department for Jewish culture.

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh pictured talking to his supporters in 2010.
Nir Kafri

In response to a query from Haaretz, the Education Ministry said it would not be funding this institution in 2019. Peretz's spokesperson said the minister is proud to attend the event, but added both he and the ministry were not involved in choosing the recipients of the awards.

Two weeks ago, Smotrich tweeted that Ginsburgh is "a genius" with body of work that is of an "incomprehensible scope. You don't have to agree with him about everything to believe he deserves an award."

The logos of the Education Ministry’s Jewish culture department and the logo of the municipality of Giv'at Shmuel in central Israel both appeared in an announcement by the Cathedra for Torah and Wisdom released about two weeks ago naming Ginsburgh as the winner of the prize.

The Education Ministry told Haaretz that it was not involved in the ceremony and that its logo was inserted in the announcement without its knowledge. “The director of the department [for Jewish culture] has instructed that the logo be removed,” the ministry said. The Giv'at Shmuel municipality also denied involvement in the event and also said its logo was used without its knowledge.

According to an announcement published on Saturday in flyers distributed in Orthodox synagogues during Sabbath prayers, Peretz would be speaking at the opening of the conference, and Ginsburgh would receive his award at the end. Smotrich is to speak during the award ceremony itself.