Rightist Rabbis Call on Jews to Avenge Yeshiva Killings

Ultra-Orthodox rabbi calls Mercaz Harav massacre 'divine punishment' for Zionists' rebellion against Torah.

A group of rabbis identified with the extreme right called on Jews Wednesday to avenge their enemies "measure for measure." An anti-Zionist rabbi, meanwhile, called the massacre "divine punishment."

Notices in the Kiryat Moshe neighborhood, the location of the Mercaz Harav yeshiva where a Palestinian gunman shot to death eight students last week, said: "Each and everyone is required to imagine what the enemy is plotting to do to us, and to match it measure for measure."

The rabbis also said it was necessary "to work to create a proper Jewish leadership," and looked forward to the day when "Jews will congregate in their cities ... and strike those who wish upon them ill in those days at this time." The latter alludes to the Book of Esther, which will be read next week on Purim.

Among the signatories to the street notice were Rabbi Yaakov Yosef, son of Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, Rabbi Ido Elba, who was sentenced to a two-year prison term for incitement to racism, Rabbi Gadi Ben-Zimra, the rabbi of the Orthodox high school where girls who were arrested refused to recognize the court's authority.

"In going to war," the rabbis write, "the Cohen [priest] fills the people with motivation by giving him the knowledge that he is going to fight his enemies and he must not show compassion or mercy."

Ben-Zimra told Haaretz that the message did not call for individual acts of vengeance because that is the job of the proper Jewish leadership that must be established.

Ben-Zimra said the words "local blessed actions" in the notice referred to acts such as returning to Gush Katif. He said the notice he had been asked to sign was formulated somewhat differently than the one that appeared.

"Private vengeance is damaging and I for one am not calling for it," Ben-Zimra said. "I don't think that this message implies that one must go out and take revenge."

Channel 1 reported Tuesday that a rabbi had given permission to yeshiva students to carry out revenge attacks. The head of the Bnei Akiva yeshivas, Rabbi Haim Druckman, sharply criticized the message and said no such thing took place at the Mercaz Harav yeshiva. He said individuals were forbidden to take security matters into their own hands.

The extreme right represented by the notice's signatories is usually opposed to the "government stream" of Orthodoxy with which the Mercaz Harav yeshiva is identified.

MK Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party-National Union) demanded Wednesday that the Public Security Ministry investigate the validity of the television report. Public Security Minister Avi Dichter told the Knesset in response that the Shin Bet security service and police have no information on revenge plots.

Another notice posted in Jerusalem and signed by the right-wing groups Komemiyut, the Jewish Heart, and Women in Green, said that "we will come in masses to destroy the murderer's house and expel his family." The notice also made reference to the Book of Esther and the victory of Jews over their enemies.

A few days ago, the police arrested right-wing activists at the Promenade in southern Jerusalem, not far from the village of Jabal Mukkaber, where the terrorist's family lives. The activists said they were on their way to destroy the family's house.

Meanwhile, a different Orthodox response to the massacre at Mercaz Harav came from the leader of the anti-Zionist Lithuanian stream of Judaism, Rabbi Dan Segal.

According to the new ultra-Orthodox daily, Yom Hadash, Segal told his students the massacre was a divine punishment for violating two of three oaths the Talmud links with coming to live in the Land of Israel. The issue of the three oaths is at the nexus of debate between Zionist and anti-Zionist Orthodoxy.

Segal reportedly said that the Orthodox were called to greater strictness in keeping the two oaths, which are not to come as a group to live in Israel using force, and not to rebel against the nations of the world.

Other non-Zionist ultra-Orthodox leaders, among them the leader of the Satmar sect, wrote eulogies for the victims of the attack. The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism Knesset faction visited the Mercaz Harav yeshiva on Wednesday.

The human rights organization B'Tselem said Wednesday in response to Dichter's instruction to the police to destroy the terrorist's home: "The destruction of a home to take vengeance on a family that has committed no crime is a step suitable to a terror organization and not a state of law."

B'Tselem also said the destruction of terrorists' houses had been stopped in 2005, when a military panel determined that it did not prevent terrorism and might even increase it.

The police Wednesday began exploring whether the terrorist's house could legally be destroyed or sealed, following Dichter's instruction. Dichter told the Knesset that he "very much hoped" a legal way could be found to destroy the house. The police said Thursday that if such a decision were made, it would be the army, and not the police, who would carry it out.